Author Topic: High yield debt and CDS market - Wild West!  (Read 793 times)

valueorama

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High yield debt and CDS market - Wild West!
« on: January 11, 2018, 01:51:42 PM »
This is some disturbing turn of events that i feel will kill the CDS market or at least new versions of contracts need to be drafted.

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from FT:

   https://www.ft.com/content/69194bda-f5af-11e7-88f7-5465a6ce1a00

   Blackstone-led debt deal sparks outcry
Traders say refinancing of a US housebuilder undermines legitimacy of $5tn CDS market

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Joe Rennison in New York
an hour ago
34

Derivatives traders are crying foul over a Blackstone-led refinancing deal for the US housebuilder Hovnanian, saying the controversial arrangement threatens to further undermine the shrinking market for credit default swaps.

Hovnanian, which is based in New Jersey and is one of America’s largest homebuilders, has agreed with Blackstone-owned hedge fund GSO to refinance up to $320m of its debt — but the deal has a catch.

In order to secure the funds from GSO, Hovnanian has agreed to skip a payment on some of its existing bonds, triggering a technical default and a big payday for the hedge fund, which placed bets on a default in the CDS market.

While legal, traders say the arrangement makes a mockery of a market designed to be used to hedge the risk of real defaults at companies in genuine financial distress.

“We fear that the Hovnanian situation could embolden investors to pursue manufactured credit events with other corporate issuers, which would undermine the true intention and spirit of the CDS market,” said Adam Savarese, co-head of leveraged finance trading at Goldman Sachs.

GSO is able to offer attractive financing terms precisely because they stand to receive a payout on its CDS contracts, and because they have structured the proposed new lending to maximise that payout. Others, including Goldman and credit hedge funds Citadel and Solus Alternative Asset Management, are on the other side of the CDS contracts and stand to lose money, according to people familiar with their positions.

“You can do your credit work but you may not know what is going on behind the scenes where someone could be trying to manufacturer a credit event,” said another fund that had sold Hovnanian CDS.

Solus on Thursday launched a lawsuit against GSO and Hovnanian, asking for an injunction to stop what it called “an illegal bribery scheme masquerading as a ‘refinancing transaction’”. Goldman and Solus had earlier offered Hovnanian an alternative refinancing deal.

Hovnanian’s investors face a deadline of this Friday to give a green light to the GSO plan, although it also rests on the approval of a market committee of banks and credit investors, which will have to certify an event of default to trigger the CDS payout.

The tactic of making refinancing conditional on triggering CDS has been used on occasion before, although the Hovnanian situation is unusual because of the size of the deal and because the company is not in financial distress, according to analysts and traders.
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CDS fell out of favour after the credit crisis and trading has further shrivelled as market players complain about a lack of transparency and liquidity. The value of outstanding “single-name” CDS, designed to hedge the risk of default on individual companies, has fallen from $33tn in November 2008 to $5tn in the middle of 2017, according to data from the Bank for International Settlements.

GSO and Hovnanian say their deal represents the best financing that was available to the company for replacing debt coming due in 2019. “The company appropriately utilised the most attractive financing techniques available,” said a GSO spokesperson.

But Peter Tchir at Academy Securities, who spearheaded the use of CDS during the early 2000s, said the controversy would have an impact on the market. “CDS was never designed for something like this,” he said. “I think this is going to create more and more pressure to create a better synthetic hedging vehicle than CDS.”


Cigarbutt

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Re: High yield debt and CDS market - Wild West!
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2018, 02:46:28 PM »
Thanks for the link valueorama.
The CDS market has been declining.
Is it because it is no longer a useful tool? because of the legal uncertainties tied to the default definition which is really a misnomer, or because there is simply less emphasis on credit risk? 

The specific issue mentioned in the article is similar to previous interpretation issues raised before between the risk "shedder" and the risk "taker".
It seems that the ISDA modified the master agreement (specific section on definition of default) along the way since the introduction of the product in the 90's.
Perhaps just noise?

valueorama

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Re: High yield debt and CDS market - Wild West!
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2018, 05:42:23 PM »
I think, CDS market is shrinking because of liquidity issues. Even on a good day, not all HY bonds trade. With CDS, it is even less.

1. To me, the situation described sounds like  insider trading.
2. or you can say, GSO basically got free money.

If the scenario mentioned in the article is considered, i would say the CDS is grossly under-priced.

ISDA should include language to remove these incentives. Otherwise, single name CDS market will be dead soon.

HJ

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Re: High yield debt and CDS market - Wild West!
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2018, 06:15:35 PM »
Thanks for the link valueorama.
The CDS market has been declining.
Is it because it is no longer a useful tool? because of the legal uncertainties tied to the default definition which is really a misnomer, or because there is simply less emphasis on credit risk? 

The specific issue mentioned in the article is similar to previous interpretation issues raised before between the risk "shedder" and the risk "taker".
It seems that the ISDA modified the master agreement (specific section on definition of default) along the way since the introduction of the product in the 90's.
Perhaps just noise?

CDS is and always has been simply a side bet, where the shorts and longs manipulate for gains.  It doesn't serve a financing need of the underlying economy.  And as Munger suggested, it probably shouldn't exist.  The rule of the game was always "make it up as you go".  The more mathematically inclined may find beauty in a theoretical pricing model, but it serves very little real life purpose.  Why would a bank buy credit protection?  Because they are too long on a credit.  Well, instead of lending too much to that borrower and then hedging it, maybe you shouldn't have lent this much to start with.  You say OK, I didn't realize I'm too long until after too much credit was extended, so now I need CDS.  But then why buy protection?  If you don't think you should lend this much, sell it for cash.  The only reason you would still keep it, but buy CDS is because you don't like the price, and buying protection allows you to not realize that full loss right at that moment of realization.  Now both sides have all the incentive to manipulate that CDS pricing for gains for as long as the contract is outstanding.  It's not a real or fair market by any stretch of the imagination, and never has been.  It's caveat emptor all the time for those who want to be involved. 

TwoCitiesCapital

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Re: High yield debt and CDS market - Wild West!
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2018, 07:45:58 PM »
I think, CDS market is shrinking because of liquidity issues. Even on a good day, not all HY bonds trade. With CDS, it is even less.

1. To me, the situation described sounds like  insider trading.
2. or you can say, GSO basically got free money.

If the scenario mentioned in the article is considered, i would say the CDS is grossly under-priced.

ISDA should include language to remove these incentives. Otherwise, single name CDS market will be dead soon.

Many CDS are MORE liquid than the underlying credits. This is especially true of the CDX indices.

Thanks for the link valueorama.
The CDS market has been declining.
Is it because it is no longer a useful tool? because of the legal uncertainties tied to the default definition which is really a misnomer, or because there is simply less emphasis on credit risk? 

The specific issue mentioned in the article is similar to previous interpretation issues raised before between the risk "shedder" and the risk "taker".
It seems that the ISDA modified the master agreement (specific section on definition of default) along the way since the introduction of the product in the 90's.
Perhaps just noise?

Why would a bank buy credit protection?  Because they are too long on a credit.  Well, instead of lending too much to that borrower and then hedging it, maybe you shouldn't have lent this much to start with. 

Instead of considering it "lending too much" we could consider it making a market. They transact to make the market - they hedge it so those activities don't kill them - and the sell it to free up the capital to do it again. This increases liquidity and price discovery. Similar to how the advent of the MBS allowed banks to make more mortgages and dropped the cost for home buyers.

TwoCitiesCapital

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Re: High yield debt and CDS market - Wild West!
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2018, 07:47:57 PM »
But very interesting article. Reminds me of the ECB structuring Greece's default in such a fashion as to avoid CDS payouts or the hedgefunds who owned Radio Shack stock forcing it into bankruptcy so they could get paid on the CDS they owned on RS debt.

Each year, the CDS market gets a bit more corrupted from its purpose with each manipulation shaking the confidence of investors trying to use it for its initial intention of hedging. I wish the regulators/courts/clearing houses/ISDA would step in and fix some of this shit :/

Cigarbutt

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Re: High yield debt and CDS market - Wild West!
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2018, 06:36:29 AM »
Historically, looking at the evolution of high yield spreads, there have been times when the default definition or the contract terms didn't need to be interpreted.

Funny, at a time when I find it may be useful to insure against credit risk (premiums appear low), I find that some suggest that high yield bonds were a good investment 10 years ago (fact) and may still be a good idea now (hypothesis) as spreads and volatility are reaching historical lows.

With long term thinking and with risk-free interest rates where they are, junk bonds look relatively cheap! Fascinating.

https://www.lordabbett.com/en/perspectives/marketview/us-high-yield-news-spreads-ten-years-later.html