What Is Liquid Yield Option Note (LYON)?
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What Is Liquid Yield Option Note (LYON)?

3 Min.

Introduced by Merrill Lynch in 1985, Liquid Yield Option Notes (LYONs) are a type of zero-coupon convertible bonds that have a predetermined conversion feature, allowing either the holder or issuer to convert them to a fixed number of common stock shares. LYONs are both callable (meaning the issuer has the right to buy them back) and putable (meaning the holder has the right to sell them back).

Basics

In 1985, Merrill Lynch pioneered Liquid Yield Option Notes by introducing the inaugural LYON for Waste Management (WM). These innovative financial instruments represent zero-coupon convertible bonds, affording both the holder and issuer the option to convert the note into a predetermined quantity of company shares.

Exploring Liquid Yield Option Notes (LYONs)

Liquid Yield Option Notes represent a unique financial instrument that combines the attributes of zero-coupon bonds and convertible bonds. As zero-coupon bonds, they do not provide periodic interest payments and are issued at a discount to their face value. Their convertible feature empowers bondholders with the ability to exchange these bonds for common shares of the issuing company at a predetermined conversion price.

LYONs are multifaceted financial tools. They are callable, permitting the issuer to buy them back, and putable, granting the holder the right to sell them back. The combination of these attributes, along with their zero-coupon structure, rendered them a groundbreaking financial innovation upon their introduction.

These synthetic instruments emulate the cash flow of other financial assets. The convertible characteristic allows for the conversion of LYONs into a set number of the underlying company's shares at specified intervals during the bond's life, typically at the bondholder's discretion. The put feature enables bondholders to compel the issuer to repurchase the security at predetermined dates before maturity, with the repurchase price typically set at par value.

Balancing Investor and Issuer Benefits

Within the realm of financial instruments, the convertible and put attributes favor investors, while the callable feature favors issuers. A callable bond is one that the issuer has the option to redeem before its maturity date. Typically, issuers exercise this option when prevailing interest rates decrease, enabling them to achieve cost savings through early bond redemption. In such cases, the bondholder receives a predetermined redemption amount based on the bond's current age.

On the other hand, a zero-coupon LYON does not provide investors with regular interest payments. Zero-coupon bonds are a type of debt security that does not yield periodic interest or coupons. These bonds are typically issued at a substantial discount to their face value and generate returns upon maturity when they are redeemed at their full face value.

LYON Issuers and Stock Conversions

Merrill Lynch took the lead in designing and acting as the main underwriter for Liquid Yield Option Notes. When an investor opts to convert their LYON into common stock, they receive shares from the issuing company. Upon the successful conversion of a LYON into stock, the holder gains all the privileges and dividends of a typical company stockholder. Notable corporations, such as Eastman Kodak, American Airlines, Motorola, and Marriott, joined Waste Management in utilizing Merrill Lynch as a platform for issuing LYONs.

Conclusion

LYONs, introduced by Merrill Lynch in 1985, offer unique zero-coupon convertible bonds that benefit both issuers and holders. Notable companies like Eastman Kodak, American Airlines, Motorola, and Marriott have used LYONs underwritten by Merrill Lynch. They provide flexibility in changing interest rate environments balancing advantages for investors and issuers. In the LYON system, both parties collaborate, unlocking shareholder benefits.

Liquid Yield Option Note (LYON)
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