Retail investors can look at NCDs for higher returns

With banks cutting rates on fixed deposits, retail investors looking for fixed income investments can consider some of the upcoming non-convertible debentures (NCDs) issues. Reliance Home Finance’s NCD is opening on December 22 and will close on January 6. The housing finance company is looking to raise about Rs 3,500 crore through secured and unsecured NCDs.

According to reports, other non-banking finance companies that are likely to raise money include Muthoot Finance, Srei Equipment Finance, IL&FS Transportation, all of whom are likely to hit the market in January.

For retail investors, Reliance Home Finance is offering between 8.9 and 9.15 for secured NCDs ranging from three to 10 years. The 15-year NCD is offering 9.4%. The rating is ‘ÁA+’ by CARE Ratings.

In comparison, State Bank of India offers 7.05 to 7.1% for one to two years FDs. Typically a ÁAA’ rated NCD would give 0.5% more than FDs and a ÁA’ or ÁA+’ offer 1.5-2% higher than FDs.

In the current benign or slow interest rate scenario, retail investors — especially those who depend on fixed income returns like pensioners, would find the NCD rates attractive. But one must be cautious about the spreads and hence credit rating of the issuer critical, says Mimi Partha Sarathy, founder Sinhasi Consultants.

‘‘As a financial advisor, we don’t advise investment in NCDs below ‘ÁAA’ or ‘ÁAA+’ ratings. In the current environment where corporate India is going through a challenging scenario investors must be careful if the spreads on such instruments are too high,’’ she says.

The credit worthiness of the issuer assumes more significance in the case of longer term investments of more than three years, points out Anil Rego, founder of Right Horizons Wealth Advisors. ‘Äpart from credit ratings, investors must also look at the group or company issuing the bond. While it would make sense to lock into highest rate available for the long term, given that interest rates are likely to come down further, predicting credit worthiness over a longer-term period becomes difficult,’’ he says.

Even though the NCDs would be listed instruments, redeeming them before maturity would be tough because liquidity may not be very high. As a precaution, investment in NCDs should not exceed 5-10% of your overall portfolio and 15-20% of the debt portfolio. Also, make sure you diversify your NCD portfolio.

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