What Is a Strip Bond?
A strip bond is a type of debt separated into principal and coupon payments by investment firms or dealers, and then sold to investors. The investor who purchases the principal, known as the residue, receives the full face value of the bond when it matures. On the other hand, the investor who purchases the coupons receives the interest payments that the bond generates upon maturity. Since there are no payments made before maturity, strip bonds carry no reinvestment risk.
A financial instrument, termed a strip bond, operates as a distinct debt security wherein the principal and standard coupon payments are divested as individual entities. This unconventional investment vehicle is commonly recognized as a zero-coupon bond.
How Does a Strip Bond Work?
Conventional bonds, commonly referred to as coupon bonds, are recognized for disbursing regular interest payments to bondholders. Investors receive both interest income, known as coupons, and the return of their principal investment upon the bond's maturity. These bonds are often acquired at par, discount, or a premium. In contrast, strip bonds deviate from the norm by eschewing interest payments. Instead, these bonds, often termed "strip bonds," undergo a process where coupons and principal are meticulously separated and sold as distinct securities to prospective investors.
Typically, an investment bank or dealer acquires a debt instrument and performs the "stripping" process, isolating coupons from the principal to form a residue. The resulting coupons and residue then constitute a new supply of strip bonds, free from reinvestment risk, as there are no interim payments until maturity.
Upon maturity, investors receive a repayment equal to the bond's face value. To illustrate, if an investor purchases a bond residual for $3,200 today with a face value of $5,000 maturing in five years, the return at maturity would be $1,800 ($5,000 - $3,200).
Comparatively, an investor opting for the coupon rather than the residual receives semi-annual interest payments based on the bond's original coupon rate. For instance, with a 4% coupon rate on a $5,000 bond, the semi-annual payment would be (4% ÷ 2) x $5,000 = $100. Accounting for the purchase price of the residual, the return at maturity would be $36 ($100 - ($3,200 ÷ $5,000) x $100).
Pricing Dynamics of Strip Bonds
The pricing of strip bonds is intricately linked to the issuer's credit rating and the present value of the maturity amount. This value is influenced by the time to maturity and prevailing interest rates, with a direct correlation to present value: closer maturity dates yield higher present values, while the reverse is true for distant maturity dates. In an economy with lower interest rates, the current value of strip bonds rises, and vice versa. The absence of regular interest payments intensifies the volatility of the bond's present value in response to interest rate fluctuations, a phenomenon termed bond duration. This impact is notably more pronounced compared to coupon bonds. Given the absence of regular interest income, strip bonds typically trade at a considerable discount to par.
Tax Implications of Strip Bond Ownership
If holding a bond until maturity, the earned return becomes taxable as interest income. Despite the absence of actual interest income, bondholders must report the phantom or imputed interest on the bond annually to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This reported interest incrementally contributes to the bond's cost basis. In cases where the bond is sold before maturity, a capital gain or loss may be realized.
Strip bonds, also known as zero-coupon bonds, represent a unique debt security where principal and coupon payments are separated and sold individually. Investors opting for the residue receive the bond's full face value at maturity, while those choosing coupons receive interest payments upon maturity. The absence of interim payments mitigates reinvestment risk. The pricing of strip bonds is intricately tied to the issuer's credit rating and prevailing interest rates, impacting present values and introducing higher volatility compared to coupon bonds. Moreover, the tax implications involve reporting imputed interest annually, contributing to the bond's cost basis, with potential capital gains or losses upon early sale.