Corporate Bonds

Corporate bonds


Corporate bonds are divided into two main categories High Grade (also called Investment Grade) and High Yield  (also called Non-Investment Grade, Speculative Grade, or Junk Bonds) according to their credit rating. Bonds rated AAA, AA, A, and BBB are High Grade, while bonds rated BB and below are High Yield. This is a significant distinction as High Grade and High Yield bonds are traded by different trading desks and held by different investors. For example, many pension funds and insurance companies are prohibited from holding more than a token amount of High Yield bonds (by internal rules or government regulation). The distinction between High Grade and High Yield is also common to most corporate bond markets.

The coupon (i.e. interest payment) is usually taxable for the investor. It is tax deductible for the corporation paying it. For US Dollar corporates, the coupon is almost always semi annual, while Euro denominated corporates pay coupon quarterly.

The coupon can be zero. In this case the bond, a zero-coupon bond, is sold at a discount (i.e. a $100 face value bond sold initially for $80). The investor benefits by paying $80, but collecting $100 at maturity. The $20 gain (ignoring time value of money) is in lieu of the regular coupon. However, this is rare for corporate bonds.

Some corporate bonds have an embedded call option that allows the issuer to redeem the debt before its maturity date. These are called callable bonds. A less common feature is an embedded put option  that allows investors to put the bond back to the issuer before its maturity date. These are called putable bonds. Both of these features are common to the High Yield market. High Grade bonds rarely have embedded options. A straight bond that is neither callable nor putable is called a bullet bond.