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Course 106
The Role of Collateral

Introduction

When you buy a bond or other debt security, it is important to consider whether it has collateral behind it. Many bonds do, but many do not. Collateral plays a role in the value and desirability of a bond. You can choose to buy a bond based on whether it has collateral and, if so, what kind of collateral it has.

Collateral

To guarantee the repayment of a loan or debt security, a debt issuer can provide extra assurance for investors in the form of pledged assets called collateral. Collateral is any asset that secures a loan or debt. If the issuer fails to repay the loan on time, the investor can seize or sell the collateral to recover the balance of the loan.

Adding collateral minimizes the risk of an investment's default, since the issuer does not want to lose the pledged collateral due to nonpayment. This makes the investment more attractive to investors. While collateralizing a loan or debt security does not guarantee that the loan's principal and earned interest will be repaid on time, it is a strong indication that this will occur

Collateral Used to Secure Bonds

In order to secure their investment offerings, some companies use portfolios of securities as collateral. A portfolio of securities is a collection of investments in the stocks, bonds, Treasury notes, etc., of other companies.

One type of investment that uses securities as collateral is a repurchase agreement. In a repurchase agreement, one party, the buyer, is lending money and receiving securities as collateral. The other party, the seller, is borrowing money and selling the securities as collateral for the loan. The seller commits to buying the securities back from the temporary buyer at an agreed-upon price (including interest) at a specific future date. If the seller defaults on the agreement to buy back the securities, the buyer can sell the securities on the secondary market.

Collateral trust bonds also use securities to secure their debts. The securities pledged by the bond issuer are held by a trustee.

Certain types of investments pledge equipment to ease the fears of their investors. Equipment trust certificates are bonds secured by specific types of equipment such as railroad boxcars or airline equipment. These types of collateralized securities are popular with transportation companies. For example, suppose a railway company wishes to finance the purchase of new boxcars. The legal title to the cars is held by a trustee, who leases the cars to the railroad. The trustee then issues equipment trust certificates in an amount almost equal to the cars' purchase prices. The trustee collects lease money from the railroad to pay the interest on the certificates. When the certificates mature, the trustee sells the equipment to the railroad and cancels the lease.

One of the most common forms of collateral is mortgaged property such as buildings and real estate. Mortgage-backed bonds are secured by a pool of home mortgages and are typically issued by federal agencies such as Ginnie Mae. Collateralized mortgage obligations (CMOs) are a special type of mortgage-backed bond that divides its investors into different classes depending on the length of their investment.

When a government wishes to finance projects such as the building of roads or bridges, it can issue revenue municipal bonds. With a revenue bond, the bond issuer pledges the revenue of the project it finances. However, revenue bonds only pay back the bonds' principal and interest if enough revenue is produced by the financed project.

Collateral Reduces Default Risk

Securities that are collateralized have higher credit ratings than those without collateral. A credit rating is a measure of a security's likelihood of default. The higher the credit rating, the less likely the issuer of the security is to default.

A collateralized security offers investors a secure investment. In the event of a default, the investor has a better chance of receiving all or part of the investment that he or she otherwise would be left without.

A collateralized security offers investors a secure investment. Adding collateral to a security also makes it more marketable. This is especially true for issues from small governments or companies that do not have name recognition among investors. Without collateral, many of these securities would not be attractive in the secondary market.

Collateralized Securities May Offer Lower Rates

Because adding collateral lowers a security's risk, it can also affect its return. The more risk an investment has, the more investors expect to be compensated for taking that risk. The higher the quality of the collateral, the better its credit rating and the lower its return need be. Corporate bonds with collateral will generally have lower coupon rates than non-collateralized corporate bonds. Unsecured government bonds may have higher ratings than collateralized government bonds.

Government bonds behave a little differently. The power of a federal or state government to raise revenue through taxation is perceived to be more secure than collateral. Therefore, unsecured government bonds may have higher ratings than collateralized government bonds. For example, municipal bonds not secured by collateral are secured by the government's power to increase taxes and create the needed funds to pay off the bonds. Because government collateralized securities are not backed by the government's taxation power, they have a higher risk than other government bonds and thus may have higher coupon rates.

Advantage of Collateral

Adding collateral to a security can make it more desirable to own. By using a pledged asset to guarantee repayment of a security's debt, an investor does not have to lose any sleep worrying about his or her investment defaulting. However, there is a tradeoff in the yields of corporate securities backed by collateral. Ultimately, your decision will come down to how safe you want to play it.

As an educated investor, you should be able to explain the purpose of collateral, identify the different types of collateral used to secure investments, and understand the pros and cons of collateralized securities.

 

Quiz 106
There is only one correct answer to each question.

1 What happens if the issuer of a collateralized debt security defaults?
a. The investor loses all of his or her money.
b. The investor gets his or her original investment back.
c. The investor can seize or sell the collateral.
2 Which investment pledges a portfolio of securities as collateral?
a. Equipment trust certificate
b. Repurchase agreement
c. Revenue municipal bond
3 Which of the following is not true?
a. Noncollateralized corporate bonds generally have higher coupon rates than those with collateral.
b. The higher a collateral's quality, the higher its coupon rate.
c. Government bonds backed by collateral have higher coupon rates than government bonds not backed by collateral.
4 Government collateralized securities are secured by what?
a. The collateral itself
b. Interest payments
c. The taxing power of the government
5 Corporate bonds without collateral have credit ratings _______ those with collateral.
a. Lower than
b. Equal to
c. Higher than
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