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Corporate Debt Securities
(Source: Merrill Lynch)


Corporate debt securities give you a special combination of advantages. These advantages include the following:

  • Generally higher interest rates than those of other fixed-income instruments, like certificates of deposit and U.S. Treasury securities.

  • A dependable source of attractive income, paid either monthly or semiannually, that you can spend for current expenses or reinvest for future needs.

  • Relative protection of principal, subject to credit quality, assuming you hold the securities until maturity.

  • Diversity of choice among issuers, maturity dates and quality ratings, increasing your flexibility to meet a broad range of investment objectives.

You may find corporate debt securities particularly attractive if you're investing through a tax-deferred account, such as an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or a business retirement account.

How Corporate Debt Securities Work To Meet Your Needs

Corporate debt securities are usually issued in $1,000 face or par amounts. Each security is, in effect, an IOU. It represents the issuer's promise to repay the loan face amount, with interest, in a stated period of time. As an investor in corporate debt securities, you are a creditor of the issuing company. You must be paid any principal and interest due before stockholders receive any dividends. Because corporate debt securities rank ahead of common stock, they are called senior securities.

Corporate debt securities may be issued by corporations in all areas of business, such as public utilities, industrial companies, finance companies, banks and transportation companies.

Corporate debt securities are referred to as fixed-income securities because they usually pay a fixed rate of interest, known as the coupon rate. The overwhelming majority of bonds pay interest semiannually, while medium-term notes may pay interest either monthly or semiannually.

The three most significant characteristics of a corporate debt security are the following:

  • Quality -- A determination of the issuer's creditworthiness.

  • Maturity -- How long you have to wait before the issuer repays principal to you.

  • Yield -- The return you expect to receive on the money you invest.

The key difference between bonds and medium-term notes

Corporate debt securities include bonds, the conventional type of corporate debt security, and medium-term notes. The primary difference between the two is that medium-term notes can be offered continuously through a "shelf registration," that is, they can be offered without the costly, time-consuming process required for a formal underwriting of bonds.

Medium-term notes are generally issued by companies designated as "investment-grade" companies by the nationally recognized statistical rating agencies. The ease of shelf registration procedures provides them with a cost-effective means of offering securities on a regular basis, and it increases their ability to tailor maturity dates, interest payment frequency and other terms to suit investor needs. The broad appeal of medium-term notes is demonstrated by the fact that investment-grade corporations today issue almost as many medium-term notes as conventional bonds.

Availability and flexibility

New issues are announced daily in the corporate debt securities market, providing you with ongoing opportunities and a high degree of flexibility to meet virtually all investment strategies. On any business day, you can select from a variety of issues that may suit your portfolio criteria.

Liquidity has historically maintained an ongoing secondary market in corporate debt securities we trade, and we intend to do so in the future, although we are not obligated to do so.

Implementing the correct strategy

Different strategies are implemented for different investment objectives. Typical investment objectives include capital preservation, capital appreciation and current income.

Recommended further reading:
Treasury Bills
Treasury Bills: How Marketable Treasury Securities Really Work
Treasury Bills, Notes &Bonds
Treasury Bills: U.S. Treasury Securities
Books on Financial Instruments