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What is a debenture & how does it work?

What is a debenture: A bank illuminated at night represent debenture

A debenture isn't just another financial term you hear in passing. It's an investment tool that forms the backbone of many financial transactions, both large and small. So what is it and how does it work?

What is a debenture and how does it work?

Essentially, a debenture represents a loan to a business or to the government. Investors who purchase a debenture are lending money to the entity issuing the debenture. The issuer, in turn, promises to pay back the loan amount on a specified date and to make periodic interest payments until that date arrives. Unlike a bank loan, debentures are unsecured. This means that there are no assets or collateral backing the debenture, only the full faith and credit of the issuer.

But there's a twist— debentures can also be secured. This security normally comes in the form of a ‘charge’ on a particular asset of the company, which guarantees the investors' repayment if the borrower defaults. Here's where it gets interesting: debentures often grant investors priority over other creditors in the event of the issuer's liquidation, ensuring a relatively safer investment compared to stockholders.

So, how does a piece of paper or a digital record signify an investment in action?

Investors can acquire debentures directly from the issuer or through the secondary market, post initial issuance. Debentures might come in various forms, each with its set of conditions, such as convertible debentures that can be exchanged for equity.

Issuing debentures is an indirect way for companies to raise capital. It's debt issuance, but with a twist of being able to set the terms of the repayment and interest to suit both the issuer's and investor's preferences. This flexibility is what makes debentures a critical tool for corporate finance.

Example of a debenture

Consider a company that wishes to raise funds for a significant project but doesn't want to dilute its ownership by issuing more shares. It could choose to issue debentures. Let's say they issue a series of 5-year debentures with an annual interest rate of 5%. Payments are distributed twice a year (semi-annually), meaning that the debenture holder would receive 2.5% every six months (5% divided by 2). 

Let's suppose the face value of each debenture is $1,000. As an investor, if you were to purchase 10 of these debentures, you would receive $25 (5% of $1,000, divided by 2) every six months, and the principal of $1,000 back at the end of the 5-year term. 

That means that by the end of the term, you have earned $250 ($50 per year X 5 years) from the interest payments plus your initial investment of $1,000.

Pros and cons of debentures

Like any financial instrument, debentures carry their share of advantages and drawbacks:

Pros Cons
Regular income : Debentures usually offer a fixed rate of interest periodically, potentially creating a steady flow of income, which is a boon for investors looking for stability. Market interest rate risk : If market interest rates go up, the fixed interest received from debentures may be less valuable, reducing their market price.
Priority claim in liquidation : In case of a company winding up, debenture holders often have priority over stockholders for repayment. No voting rights : Unlike stockholders, debenture holders do not have voting rights within the company.
Diversification : Debentures can offer a less risky way to diversify your portfolio. By adding a mix of equities and debentures, investors can balance risk and return.
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Summary

For individual investors, carefully considering when to include debentures in your portfolio is paramount. This entails assessing personal risk tolerance, investment goals, and market conditions. For example, during volatile markets, the stability offered by a debenture’s fixed income may be particularly attractive, outweighing potential drawbacks.

But for companies, debentures offer an intriguing proposition. Startups seeking to scale or established businesses looking to fund expansion without ceding equity can find debentures to be versatile and strategic tools.

FAQs

1. What exactly are debentures?

A debenture is a debt instrument issued by a company that acknowledges a loan from the holder for a fixed-term and at a fixed rate of interest.

2. How do debentures benefit investors?

Debentures can provide investors with a solid, predictable stream of income through regular interest payments.

3. What are the key risks associated with debentures?

Like any investment, debentures carry their own set of risks, notably market risk and the potential for default by the issuing company.

4. How can I invest in debentures?

You can invest in debentures by purchasing them directly from the issuer, from the secondary market, or through mutual funds that specialise in bonds and debentures.

5. Are debentures only issued by corporations?

No, while corporations are common issuers, governments and local authorities also utilise debentures to raise funds for various initiatives.

6. How do debentures differ from bonds?

Bonds are typically secured by specific assets, whereas debentures may be unsecured or secured by a floating charge that covers a range of unencumbered assets.

7. Can individuals purchase debentures, or are they only for institutional investors?

Individuals can often purchase debentures directly from the issuer or through secondary markets with the assistance of investment brokerages. However, the accessibility of debenture offerings may vary depending on the specific circumstances.

This article is offered for general information and does not constitute investment advice. Please be informed that currently, Skilling is only offering CFDs.

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You are about to visit: https://skilling.com/row/ which is operated by Skilling (Seychelles) Ltd, under the Financial Services Authority Seychelles License No: SD042. Before opening an account, please read the terms & conditions and contact our customer support for any questions.

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