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Convertible Securities: What They Are, How They Work, and Real-Life Examples

Last updated 03/15/2024 by

Abi Bus

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Convertibles are financial instruments like bonds or preferred shares that can be converted into common stock. They offer a unique blend of benefits, providing both protection against significant losses and higher income than regular stocks. Convertibles are a hybrid of debt and equity, offering features of both. While they can be appealing to investors, especially those seeking appreciation and income, they come with complexities, such as the potential for the issuer to force conversion at a specific time.

What are convertibles?

Convertibles are financial securities that offer a distinctive combination of features. They can be bonds, preferred shares, or other financial instruments that come with the option for the holder to convert them into common stock. The most common form of convertibles is convertible bonds, where bondholders can transition from being creditors to equity holders at a pre-determined price.

Hybrid nature of convertibles

Convertibles are distinct because they don’t neatly fit into the categories of debt or equity. Instead, they straddle both, offering characteristics of both bonds and stocks. This hybrid nature is what makes convertibles intriguing to investors.

Understanding convertibles

Convertibles, especially convertible bonds, offer a unique value proposition to investors. While they typically provide lower coupons than regular bonds, the option to convert them into common stock adds an extra layer of value. This can be appealing to investors looking for both safety and growth potential.
Convertible bonds, like other bonds, represent a debt obligation of the issuer. Investors lend funds to the company and, in return, receive periodic interest payments, referred to as coupon payments. What sets convertibles apart is the conversion feature, which gives the bondholder the right to exchange their bond for shares of stock.
One key advantage of convertibles is their ability to shield investors from significant losses. If the stock price declines, the bondholder can choose to hold the bond until maturity and receive the face value. On the other hand, if the stock price rises substantially, they can convert the bond into stock and potentially profit.

Types of convertible bonds

Convertible bonds come in several forms, with varying degrees of complexity:

Vanilla convertible bonds

These offer investors the choice to hold the bond until maturity or convert it to stock. This flexibility allows investors to assess market conditions before deciding.

Mandatory convertible bonds

Investors are obligated to convert these bonds at a specific conversion ratio and price. There is no choice involved in this conversion.

Reversible convertible bonds

These bonds grant the issuer the right to convert the bond into equity shares or keep it as a fixed-income investment. The decision to convert is usually at a predetermined price and ratio.

Conversion rate

The conversion rate is a critical factor in convertible securities. It determines the number of shares an investor receives for each bond converted. This rate may remain fixed or change over time, depending on the terms of the offering. For example, a conversion rate of 30 means that for every $1,000 of par value converted, the bondholder gets 30 shares of stock.
It’s important to note that converting bonds into equity isn’t always profitable. Investors can calculate the breakeven price by dividing the selling price of the bond by the conversion rate.

Example convertible calculation

Let’s consider an example: A convertible bond has a par value of $1,000 and a selling price of $800. The company’s shares are currently trading at $40. To determine if conversion is profitable, divide $800 by the conversion rate, which, in this case, is 30. The result is $26.67, which is less than the current share price of $40. If the bond never becomes profitable to convert, the holder continues to receive the bond’s stated interest rate.
Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.
  • Protection against substantial losses
  • Higher income compared to common stocks
  • Potential for appreciation
    • Issuer may force conversion at an unfavorable time
    • Limited upside potential due to callability

Frequently asked questions

What are the primary types of convertible securities?

The primary types of convertible securities are convertible bonds and convertible preferred shares. These financial instruments offer unique features for investors.

Why do investors find convertibles appealing?

Investors are drawn to convertibles because they provide a balance of protection against losses and the potential for higher income and appreciation. This combination suits those seeking both safety and growth in their investments.

What is the significance of the conversion rate in convertibles?

The conversion rate determines how many shares an investor receives when converting a bond into stock. It’s a critical factor that influences the profitability of conversion.

Can convertible bonds result in losses for investors?

Yes, convertible bonds can lead to losses if the issuer decides to force conversion at an unfavorable time. This limitation on the upside potential is an important consideration for investors.

Are convertible bonds riskier than regular bonds?

Convertible bonds, while offering unique benefits, also carry some risks. Their value is influenced by both the underlying stock’s performance and interest rate movements. In some cases, convertible bonds can be riskier than traditional bonds.

How do I determine the conversion price of a convertible bond?

The conversion price of a convertible bond is typically set when the bond is issued. It’s essential to review the bond’s terms and prospectus to find this information. The conversion price is crucial for calculating when it becomes profitable to convert the bond into stock.

Can convertible preferred shares be a good addition to my portfolio?

Convertible preferred shares can be an attractive option for investors seeking a balance between income and potential equity participation. However, their suitability depends on your financial goals and risk tolerance. It’s advisable to consult with a financial advisor to determine if they align with your investment strategy.

Why do companies issue convertible securities?

Companies issue convertible securities as a means to raise capital. They offer a way for businesses to secure funding while providing investors with an option to convert their investment into company shares. This can be an attractive option for both parties, aligning their interests in a unique way.

What is callability, and how does it affect convertible bonds?

Callability refers to the issuer’s ability to force bondholders to convert their bonds into stock at a predetermined price and time. This feature can limit the potential upside for investors. Understanding the callability of a convertible bond is crucial when considering the investment.

Can convertibles be suitable for retirement portfolios?

Convertibles can offer a unique blend of safety and potential growth, making them suitable for certain retirement portfolios. However, their suitability depends on your risk tolerance and investment objectives. It’s advisable to consult with a financial advisor to determine if they fit your retirement strategy.

Key takeaways

  • Convertibles are financial instruments that offer the option to convert into common stock, including convertible bonds and preferred shares.
  • They are a hybrid of debt and equity, providing both income and potential appreciation.
  • Investors value convertibles for their protection against significant losses and the opportunity for higher income.
  • However, convertibles can limit upside potential due to issuer-driven conversions.
  • The conversion rate is crucial in determining the profitability of converting bonds into stock.

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