- The market has responded to the potential merits of convertibles with a sharp rise in issuance over the past quarter: more than USD 67 billion in total
- The reason for the new issuance has to do with the fact that convertibles offer a cost-effective and flexible way for companies to raise capital
- “It is crucial to take a thematic approach to navigate economic cycles and invest in the right convertibles”
There are as many reasons to believe that equities will continue the rally they began in March as there are to expect another downturn. In either case, volatility is likely to remain high. NN Investment Partners believes that in times of such heightened uncertainty, investors would do well to consider including convertible bonds in their portfolios. In their view, market developments since the coronavirus began have confirmed the relevance their convertible bond investment approach.
A convertible bond is a bond plus an embedded stock option, giving features of fixed income and equities in one instrument. These equity/fixed-income hybrids offer the best of both worlds: their conversion option gives exposure to the upside in share prices, and their bond cashflows provide downside protection should the underlying share price fall.
“The market has certainly responded to the potential merits of convertibles”. NN IP notes a sharp rise in issuance of convertibles over the past quarter: it was USD 16 billion in April, USD 27 billion in May and USD 25 billion in June, amounting to more than USD 67 billion in total. This is about two-thirds of the annual average over the past decade of around USD 100 billion.
The asset manager believes that the reason for the new issuance has to do with the fact that convertibles offer a cost-effective and flexible way for companies to raise capital, either to remain operational or to take advantage of new business opportunities. The current volatility in equity markets means it is also often more attractive than a share issue; the lower coupon rates for convertibles make the running costs much cheaper than those for straight debt.
Martin Haycock, Senior Convertible Bonds Specialist at NN IP, says that around a third of recent issues relate to companies that are in trouble because of the current crisis, such as travel companies, while the majority of issuers are looking for capital to finance growth.
“We are interested in this latter group, which includes companies involved in cybersecurity, cloud computing, batteries/electrification and healthcare, which will see growth in the next three to five years,” says Haycock. “This is why it is crucial to take a thematic approach to navigate economic cycles and invest in the right convertibles.”
Tarek Saber, Head of Convertible Bonds points out that convertible bonds bonanza is underway, as more and more companies see the benefit of issuing convertibles in the post-coronavirus world.
“This is a positive for the asset class and a growing number of investors are embracing the unique historic risk-return characteristics of convertibles and allocating a place for them in their strategic asset allocations,” says Saber. “We would recommend allocations of between 3% and 10%, depending on investors’ appetites. Whatever they choose, they should partner with investment managers who are strict in their investment process and won’t buy new issues just because they might be theoretically cheap at issue, but instead focus on the credit and equity fundamentals of the issuer.”
Taking this into account, the NN (L) Global Convertible Opportunities invests long-only in a portfolio of thoroughly researched convertible bonds. The fund is actively managed and invested in balanced convertibles that provide asymmetrical returns. It aims to outperform the global convertible universe (measured by the Refinitiv Global Focus Index – Hedged) by 200bps per annum.