BOND HOLDERS: Credit Suisse


By Staff Reporters



DEFINITION: Junk bonds are bonds that carry a higher risk of default than most bonds issued by corporations and governments. A bond is a debt or promise to pay investors interest payments along with the return of invested principal in exchange for buying the bond. Junk bonds represent bonds issued by companies that are financially struggling and have a high risk of defaulting or not paying their interest payments or repaying the principal to investors. Junk bonds are also called high-yield bonds since the higher yield is needed to help offset any risk of default.


AT1 DEFINITION: Additional Tier 1 bonds are also known as “contingent convertibles,” or “CoCos”. They were created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis as a way for failing banks to absorb losses, making a taxpayer-funded bailout less likely. They are a risky bet — if a lender gets into trouble, this class of bonds can be quickly converted into equity, or written down completely. Because they are higher-risk, AT1s offer a higher yield than most other bonds issued by borrowers with similar credit ratings, making them very risky. If AT1s are converted into equity, this supports a bank’s balance sheet and helps it to stay afloat. They also pave the way for a “bail-in”, or a way for banks to transfer risks to investors and away from taxpayers if they get into trouble.



UBS’s emergency takeover of Credit Suisse may have been necessary to avert a financial crisis, but at least one group is Yosemite Sam-level angry over how the deal shook out. Investors holding $17 billion worth of Credit Suisse’s additional tier-one bonds were shocked to discover that their $17 billion was now worth a grand total of…$0. The value of those bonds had been completely wiped out in the deal.

Additional tier-one bonds, or AT1 bonds for short, were established after the 2008 financial crisis to reduce the likelihood that taxpayers would have to bail out a failed bank. AT1s are considered riskier assets, but with that risk comes higher potential returns.


So, if these bondholders knew they were taking on risk, why are they so upset?

According to MorningBrew, mainly because, in this unusual deal, they got wiped out while shareholders didn’t. That’s not how the order of operations usually works:

  • When a write-down happens, shareholders traditionally suffer losses before bondholders get hit.
  • This deal flipped the food chain, and livid AT1 bondholders are now huddling up with lawyers about potential legal action.





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