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Corporate bonds explained

What are bonds?

Corporate bonds (or retail bonds) are issued by companies to raise money if it is cheaper than issuing further shares. They represent a loan from you to the company and are considered higher risk than gilts, which are considered a safe investment because they are issued and backed by the government.

Why invest in bonds?

Bonds generate an income for you through interest on your capital.

The issuing company promises to pay a fixed rate of interest (‘coupon’) for a fixed period at regular intervals until maturity, upon which it will repay the original loan or capital back to you, the investors. Interest can be either at a fixed rate or at a floating rate relative to the bond.

You may also come across zero-coupon bonds which pay no interest, but which are issued at a discount to the value on maturity, creating a capital gain.

Types of bonds

Bonds are categorised according to their term or maturity date:

Short-maturity bond = 5 years

Medium-maturity bond = 5-15 years

Long-maturity bond = 15 years or more

Bond considerations

If a company gets wound up, bonds have higher priority than shares, however you need to assess the risk associated with the particular issue (rather than the company), by looking at the company’s ability to service its debts. Most corporate bonds are rated for risk by credit rating agencies, such as Standard & Poor's, Moody's or Fitch.

You can also trade them on the secondary market where the price will be typically dictated by market forces such as supply and 
demand as well as interest rates.

If you want to sell a bond before its redemption date, you may get back less than you originally invested.

Tax liability

Interest on bonds is paid gross, but is liable for Income Tax. This makes bonds particularly attractive to non-tax payers. You don’t have to pay Capital Gains Tax on some qualifying bonds.

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These articles are provided for information purposes only. The content is not intended to be a personal recommendation. The value of your investments, and the income derived from them, may go down as well as up. If in doubt, please seek advice from a qualified investment adviser.