Observations on Bank Hybrids

Generally I am skeptical of hybrids, particularly the highly structured preference shares issued by financials (mainly the big 4 banks).

I would never participate in a new issue as the are typically overpriced and trade poorly in the secondary market. They are sold in general to in a fairly unsophisticated manner based on yield, despite being complex securities.

It's important to note that while they may look like a fixed interest product (the holder receives regular payments and if all goes well a return of capital at a specified future date) they are more akin to equity. In periods of market distress (now) fixed interest securities as a group generally rise while equity-like hybrids fall. This is possibly due to investors switching From the hybrids into ordinary equity to capture the higher yields on offer. This is quite a disadvantage as they are not providing any diversification benefit to a portfolio. To verify this for yourself, check out WBC vs WBCPE (hybrid) and WBCHB (bond).


WBCPE (hybrid)

WBCHB (bond)

All three securities have declined over the last 12 months. The bond has done best and importantly has exhibited the lowest volatility and greatest degree of capital stability.

Having said all this there are some opportunities from time to time.

ANZPA will mandatorily convert in Dec 16 at a 1% discount if not redeemed. Currently they are trading at a margin of about 3.9% to bills (i.e. based on a bill rate of 2.1% the yield to maturity is c.6.0% – note this will fluctuate as bills move). I like it under $99 and like it more under $98. I would reassess these levels if ANZ trades below c.$25. It is a very liquid issue having $1.7bn of securities outstanding.

If there is interest I will write about another opportunity. Let me know in the comments.

Good luck



ASX market comment 1 June 2012

May was a bad month on the ASX, with the market down 7.3% (worst month since May 2010 … May strikes again!). I’m sure many investors are keen to turn the page into June!

Yesterday the market put in a decent showing with the XJO down a measly 12 points (-0.3% to 4064). Hardly significant or meaningful. However what got me thinking was some comments I received that the market “felt” a lot worse than it actually was. So I decided to examine the performance of the most liquid stocks (average value traded per day of over $5m). There are 111 such stocks. I then looked at the performance of the 20 “riskiest” stocks (measured by beta) vs the 20 most “defensive” stocks. The results summarise in the chart below:

Fairly remarkable. On a day when the market was essentially flat, risky stocks returned -2.9%, while defensives were unchanged. (Outperfomers included TLS and the banks).

Reasons I can suggest for this:

  1. The macro environment is obviously poor (negative headlines everywhere, Chinese data at 11am was also perceived negatively).
  2. The equity market is pricing in further interest rate cuts. In this environment defensive stocks will outperform handily.

I would suggest defensive stocks could be accumulated on weakness. On my watch list are property trusts and utilities that pay quarterly or semi-annual distributions in the last week of June (most of them but not for example WDC). I will also be looking at liquid industrial stocks that pay dividends in August and early September (eg TLS, CCL, WOW, AMC, ANN). Its important that the stock should be very defensive … this excludes mining, mining services, energy, consumer discretionary and media stocks for example.

I won’t be rushing though – last night the S&P 500 was -2.5%, the worst performance in 7 months. So there’s probably time to get set …

Happy investing


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