A bond is a promissory note issued by a business or a governmental unit. Treasury bonds, sometimes referred to as government bonds, are issued by the Federal government and are not exposed to default risk. Corporate bonds are issued by corporations and are exposed to default risk. Different corporate bonds have different levels of default risk, depending on the issuing company's characteristics and on the terms of the specific bond. Municipal bonds are issued by state and local governments. The interest earned on most municipal bonds is exempt from federal taxes, and also from state taxes if the holder is a resident of the issuing state. Foreign bonds are issued by foreign governments or foreign corporations. These bonds are not only exposed to default risk, but are also exposed to an additional risk if the bonds are denominated in a currency other than that of the investor's home currency.
The par value is the nominal or face value of a stock or bond. The par value of a bond generally represents the amount of money that the firm borrows and promises to repay at some future date. The par value of a bond is often $1,000, but can be $5,000 or more. The maturity date is the date when the bond's par value is repaid to the bondholder. Maturity dates generally range from 10 to 40 years from the time of issue. A call provision may be written into a bond contract, giving the issuer the right to redeem the bonds under specific conditions prior to the normal maturity date. A bond's coupon, or coupon payment, is the dollar amount of interest paid to each bondholder on the interest payment dates. The coupon is so named because bonds used to have dated coupons attached to them which investors could tear off and redeem on the interest payment dates. The coupon interest rate is the stated rate of interest on a bond.
In some cases, a bond's coupon payment may vary over time. These bonds are called floating rate bonds. Floating rate debt is popular with investors because the market value of the debt is stabilized. It is advantageous to corporations because firms can issue long-term debt without committing themselves to paying a historically high interest rate for the entire life of the loan. Zero coupon bonds pay no coupons at all, but are offered at a substantial discount below their par values and hence provide capital appreciation rather than interest income. In general, any bond originally offered at a price significantly below its par value is called an original issue discount bond (OID).
Most bonds contain a call provision, which gives the issuing corporation the right to call the bonds for redemption. The call provision generally states that if the bonds are called, the company must pay the bondholders an amount greater than the par value, a call premium. Redeemable bonds give investors the right to sell the bonds back to the corporation at a price that is usually close to the par value. If interest rates rise, investors can redeem the bonds and reinvest at the higher rates. A sinking fund provision facilitates the orderly retirement of a bond issue. This can be achieved in one of two ways: The company can call in for redemption (at par value) a certain percentage of bonds each year. The company may buy the required amount of bonds on the open market.
The value of a bond is simply the present value of the future interest payments and maturity value discounted at the bondholder's required rate of return. This may be expressed as:
where It =the dollar interest to be received in each payment
M=the par value of the bond at maturity
kb=the required rate of return for the bondholder
N=the number of periods to maturity
In other words, we are discounting the expected future cash flows to the present at the appropriate discount rate (required rate of return).