Convexity ratio is the ratio of upside and downside participation.
For example, suppose the convertible provides 64% of the upside participation with only 34% of the downside movement, then the convexity ratio is 1.85. That is, the convertible provides 85% more upside participation than downside risk.
Insulation from volatility The price movements of convertibles are generally far less volatile.
Risk-reward relationship Performance of various asset classes, 1973-1995 Compound annual return standard deviation Convertible bonds 11.70 % 12.47% S&P 500 11.84% 17.27% Long-term corporate bonds 9.66% 12.44% Intermediate-term 9.91% 8.93% corporate bonds Source: Goldman Sachs Global Convertible Research (1996) “Convertibles as an Asset Class.”
Possible reasons for the better performance Inefficient company timing in calling convertible issues If a deep-in-the-money convertible enjoys a significant yield advantage over the common stock but it is not called, it is likely to outperform the underlying stock. Companies may delay conversion for a number of reasons including balance sheet and rating agency considerations. Attractive convertible pricing at issue Typically, convertible securities are initially priced several percentage points cheap to their theoretical value in order to insure a successful launch. The conversion option is undervalued.
What is a busted convertible? The underlying stock is far out-of-the-money – the convertible trades on its fixed income characteristics. Busted convertibles are characterized by low equity price sensitivity (low delta), large conversion premium and high yield to maturity. • delta < 4% • conversion premium > 75% • yield more than 10% Average credit quality of the busted convertibles is BB- versus BB+ for the entire domestic universe.
Advantages • In contrast to junk bonds, the upside potential is not capped – may enjoy unlimited upside potential if the stock price recovers. • With busted convertibles, the equity warrant (deep out-of-the-money) is often mispriced . Investors are effectively buying high yield debt with a free equity kicker. • Busted convertibles are more attractive investment than high-yield debts in a modern economy that has shifted from slow growth, cyclical companies to more volatile growth companies.
Disadvantages • Busted convertibles are often more illiquid . Traditional convertible investors become sellers as equity sensitivity diminishes. • Convertible securities are generally subordinate to other creditors in the event of a liquidation or bankruptcy. The biggest risk is continued credit deterioration .
Arbitrage • The process of making a riskfree profit by buying and selling the same asset in two different markets simultaneously. • Suppose the convertible trades below parity, it can be purchased while simultaneously shorting an amount of stock equal to the conversion ratio. This is a rare occurrence (may only occur in markets where it is impossible or difficult to short the stock). Recent market phenomenon Volatility generally benefits convertible bond arbitrage because a CB trade is inherently long volatility, but it can also cause problems if done without any delta hedges. For example, in recent Indian market, the index volatility shot up and some illiquid CBs collapsed when the equity market fell.
investors can take advantage of through hedging techniques.
• Hedgers can retain a portion of the stock’s potential by selling short
a circumscribed quantity of common against a convertible while
reducing or even eliminating stock market risk.
• They can swap upside potential for downside profits by shorting
more of the stock.
Carefully balancing the use of margin and hedging ratios can
further enhance the risk reward relationship.
Bullish hedges • Designed to allow investors to participate in upward market moves at reduced risk. • As an alternative to owning the underlying common stock, the hedge offers about half the upside potential advantage while assuming a small fraction of the downside risk. • Bullish hedges are a low-risk alternative to a mix of stocks, non-investment grade bonds and cash.
Bullish posture with 50% margin • The convertible bond may be purchased on 50% margin. • The hedge position’s upside potential increases close to that of the underlying common stock while limiting the downside losses to only a fraction of the common’s loss. • It is also a superior alternative to owning the convertible bond outright. If the common were to drop 50% in 6 months, the hedge position would be expected to lose only 15% versus 30% loss for the convertible bond.
Hedging with put options • A short stock position can be created through buying puts. • The cost of purchasing downside protection with puts is greater than the accrued interest from the convertibles. This is in contrast to the neutral hedge with stock, which earns a positive stand-still of return. • As stock price goes down, since the stock price moves down faster than the convertible price, the gain from puts accelerates. • As stock price goes up, once the put premium is recovered, the profits increases.
outperforms on the upside, but provides little downside support.
expensive to implement
Hedging with shorting calls • Best scenario: The stock price remains unchanged and the option premium enhances the income and reduces the initial investment. • As the stock price moves up, we get squeezed as the loss on our short call position begins to catch up with the premium earned, and the gain on the convertible. • On the downside, the premium earned cushions the blow as the stock price falls, but provides no real support.
Bond market volatility risk Bond market volatility is harmful to convertible hedgers • Rapidly declining interest rates in 1992-93 encouraged many companies to call their convertibles sooner than usual – resulting premature loss of conversion premiums and accrued interest. • Sudden interest rate up trend in 1994 caused additional problems as investment floors dropped. • Declining interest rates in the years following 1994 once again saw an unusual number of convertibles redeemed.
Risks of hedging – Event risk • A bankruptcy may produce net losses depending on if the bond winds up with meaningful residual value. • A cash takeover destroys a bond’s conversion premium. • When a company calls a bonds, it usually announces the redemption just prior to an interest payment date – investors lose accrued interest in addition to conversion premium.