Investment Europe, The Case for Subordinated Securities
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Risks of Investing in Preferred Securities
Investing in any market exposes investors to risks. In general, the risks of investing in preferred securities are similar to those of investing in bonds, including credit risk and interest-rate risk. As nearly all preferred securities have issuer call options, call risk and reinvestment risk are also important considerations. In addition, investors face equity-like risks, such as deferral or omission of distributions, subordination to bonds and other more senior debt, and higher corporate governance risks with limited voting rights.
Risks associated with preferred securities differ from risks inherent with other investments. In particular, in the event of bankruptcy, a company’s preferred securities are senior to common stock but subordinated to all other types of corporate debt. In the linked article there are comparisons of preferred securities to bonds. It is important to note that corporate bonds sit higher in the capital structure than preferred securities, and therefore in the event of bankruptcy will be senior to the preferred securities. Municipal bonds are issued and backed by state and local governments and their agencies, and the interest from municipal securities is often free from both state and local income taxes. 10-Year Treasury bonds are issued by the U.S. government and are generally considered the safest of all bonds since they're backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government as to timely payment of principal and interest.
Preferred funds may invest in below investment-grade securities. Below investment-grade securities or equivalent unrated securities generally involve greater volatility of price and risk of loss of income and principal, and may be more susceptible to real or perceived adverse economic and competitive industry conditions than higher grade securities.
Contingent capital securities (sometimes referred to as "CoCos") are debt or preferred securities with loss absorption characteristics built into the terms of the security, for example a mandatory conversion into common stock of the issuer under certain circumstances, such as the issuer's capital ratio falling below a certain level. Since the common stock of the issuer may not pay a dividend, investors in these instruments could experience a reduced income rate, potentially to zero, and conversion would deepen the subordination of the investor, hence worsening the investor's standing in a bankruptcy. Some CoCos provide for a reduction in the value or principal amount of the security under such circumstances. In addition, most CoCos are considered to be high yield or "junk" securities and are therefore subject to the risks of investing in below investment-grade securities.
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