Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Primer on Corporate Bonds – I (Credit Ratings): Million Dollar Journey

A Primer on Corporate Bonds – I (Credit Ratings): Million Dollar Journey

Posted: 02 Sep 2010 04:30 AM PDT
This is a column by regular contributor Clark.
The earlier parts of the bond series dealt with the basic types of bonds and their risks and suitability. This part will begin a sub-series on corporate bonds.
As mentioned in the first part of the series, corporate bonds are issued by companies to gather funds for their business. With thousands of companies issuing bonds, where does one start to make the list smaller?

Credit Rating Agencies

Similar to credit reporting bureaus that keep track of a consumer's credit history, there are Nationally (US) Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations such as DBRS (short for Dominion Bond Rating Service), Moody's, Standard and Poor's(the S&P Indices fame) and Fitch Ratings that issue credit ratings for companies. These agencies offer a rating system to aid investors in determining the risks associated with investing in any company. Debt could be secured or unsecured and there are specific ratings for short-term debt, long-term debt, preferred stock, etc. A glance at the long-term credit ratings of a company (that also considers assets or collateral needed in case of default) would show the company's ability to fulfill its debt obligations and credit worthiness. It must be noted that credit ratings are not meant as alerts to buy, hold or sell; they are just a tool to assess a company's capacity to pay back debt.

Foreign Currency Debt

Companies may borrow from lenders inside and/or outside the country (for example, Canadian companies may make use of US banks and vice versa). As would be obvious, borrowing from foreign lenders comes with currency rate fluctuations. Repaying a local (as in country) lender is straightforward – if the company has the money and willing to repay, then the debt is paid. But, in the case of foreign currency debt, companies would have to consider currency rates and decide if it is lucrative to repay debt at that existing currency rate or watch market forecasts and calculate if they would be in better health by holding off until when they think the exchange rate will be stronger (they may also invest overseas at such a time). Foreign currency debt throws another variable into the mix but thankfully, agencies evaluate an organization's ability to repay debts in local and foreign currencies. If the organization has foreign currency debt but does not have sufficient foreign currency reserves, then their rating may be lower.

Corporate Credit Rating

Corporate credit ratings range from the highest quality (best) to junk level (worst). Agencies use different designations but in general, long-term ratings are denoted by the letters AAA (triple A), which is the best credit rating (meaning low credit risk) and C or D (based on the agency) is the worst (default level as in failing to meet obligations). There are subsets to the basic category, which might involve a "+" or "-" sign to indicate subclasses (again, varies based on the agency). For example, the Fitch Ratings use AAA, AA, AA, BBB for investment grade and BB, B, CCC, CC, C, D and NR (not rated) for non-investment grade bonds. A good credit rating helps a corporation attract new partners or retail investors, apply for an increase to their line of credit, or sell their business.

Sovereign Credit Rating

A sovereign credit rating provides information about a country’s ability to provide a stable and secure investment market. This rating is contingent on a country’s economic status, market transparency, foreign investments, currency (local and foreign) reserves, and political stability to name a few. Potential investors can analyze the country-level risk associated with the company they are looking at and arrive at their decision. A sovereign rating is critical, since it will boost the country's prospects in terms of pulling in foreign investments and assisting in the growth of the economy.
In the next part, we'll look at some metrics worth knowing about when purchasing corporate bonds.
About the Author: Clark is a twenty-something Saskatchewan resident employed in the manufacturing sector. He repaid around $20,000 in student loans and has been working to build his investment portfolio as a DIY investor (not trader) while nurturing plans to retire early. He loves reading (and using the lessons learned) about personal finance, technology and minimalism.
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Normal is Broke

Living With A Chain

How to Get a Job when No One is Hiring

When the jobs are hidden

To get a job, you have to find the openings that no one's advertising, and really impress your potential employer.

By Jia Lynn Yang, writer-reporter

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- David Perry, a longtime headhunter, says you're wasting your time if you're looking for job postings online. And he should know: he's often the guy on the other side helping companies lure new talent. Perry, who's based in Ottawa, says that in the last 22 years he has accomplished 996 searches totaling $172 million in salary. And the bottom line in today's economy, he says, is you have to tap the "hidden job market."

Perry's also the co-author of "Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters" and he recently spoke with Fortune.

What's the "hidden job market"?

When companies say, 'We have a hiring freeze,' that doesn't mean they're not hiring. It just means they're not adding headcount. Every year there's 20-25% turn over. So in a 1,000-person company, 200 or 250 people are going to turn over, either through attrition, or someone moves. Those companies are still hiring but they don't want to tell you.

So how do you find these jobs?

What you have to do in a recession is map your skills to employers to where you know they have a problem you can solve. My advice to job hunters is pick 10 to 20 companies, no more, and pick companies you're interested in, and that you think you can add value to. That requires researching companies, and so that list may take you two weeks. If you're trying to crack the hidden job market and you know the job position you want reports to vice president, find that vice president on LinkedIn and look at his profile to see who else he's connected to and go ask them, 'What's this guy like to work for?' Do the research before you even pick up the phone.

How can you get someone's attention?

We can go into billboards, sandwiches - that stuff only works once. It's only for one person who figures it out once, once in a city. If you're looking for fun stuff, we have this thing called the coffee cup caper, 30% of the time it will result in an interview. You send an employer a coffee cup with a little $5 swipe card with a little note that says, I'd like to get together and talk with you over coffee. I'll be calling soon. And you send it by U.S. post two day delivery, and that gets registered. So when they've signed for it, you wait about 20 minutes and then you call them. And then you go, Hi, I know you just got my package.' You're proving you're imaginative and creative.

What something people should avoid during a job interview?

This drives me insane: I've seen people mentally deciding in the interview whether they want the job. That's the last place to decide. You go into an interview, and you sell like your life depends on it. You've got to get the job first. I've seen it thousands of times. There's this point in the interview, where people go 'Hmm, do I really want this? You can see their body change. The employer picks it up and it's gone. If the employer is telling you, 'I love you,' and you're not saying 'I love you too,' it's over with.

How about following up afterwards?

If you really like the opportunity, don't go home and write thank you very much. Go back and write a letter that says, upon further reflection of what we were talking about, here's what I bring to the table, here's how I see myself fitting into the organization, including a 30-60-90 day plan.

How can someone attract a recruiter's attention?

You have to go to ZoomInfo and LinkedIn and create a profile. All corporate recruiters and probably 20% of the headhunters in America have ZoomInfo accounts. When we start a search, companies aren't going to advertise. The headhunter goes to ZoomInfo, types in requirements that we need, like skillset, degree, city, functional title, and up will come anywhere from a hundred to several thousand people who fit that criteria. Then we go to LinkedIn and run the same search. If you're in ZoomInfo with a picture, we're going to call you first. Just reverse engineer what recruiters are doing so you get found.

How can you really impress a potential employer?

It hasn't worked in years just to bring in your resume, except only in the most junior positions. I concentrate on directors to CEOs, and the last interview for us regardless is always a Power Point presentation of what you've learned, pain points, and how you intend to fix that. Everyone talks about being a great leader and great communicator, so prove it. Don't go into an interview and treat it like it's just another business meeting. Your career is your biggest asset now - because it's certainly not your house. To top of page


August 2008 Dave Ramsey on Barack Obama

This was aired in August 2008. So was Dave right???