Top Basic Facts that you need to know to Invest
Corporate bond interest is usually paid semiannually.
Zero-coupon bonds pay no periodic interest.
Forms of Issuance
Corporate bonds are issued in several forms:
Registered Bonds: Some corporate bonds are issued as certificates, with the owner’s name printed on them. There are no coupons attached for the owner to submit for payment of interest. The issuer’s agent or trustee sends the interest to the bondholder at the proper intervals and forwards the principal at maturity.
Bearer Bonds: These are bonds that have no name printed on them and do have coupons attached. Anonymous and highly negotiable, bearer bonds are virtually equivalent to cash. The Tax Reform Act of 1982 ended the issuance of such bonds, but many remain in circulation.
Book-Entry Bonds: These are bonds without certificates. Just as registered bonds have largely supplanted bearer bonds, book entry is replacing certificates as the prevailing form of issuance. With book-entry securities, a bond issue as only one master, or global, certificate, which is kept at a securities depository. The ownership of book-entry bonds is recorded in the investor’s brokerage account. All interest and principal payments are forwarded to the brokerage account.
Minimum Investment Listed bonds are issued and sold in $1,000 denominations. For OTC bonds, the minimum investment is usually $5,000.
When you buy a corporate bond (or other security), you must make sure that payment arrives at the broker’s office within three business days. Some firms require that you have your payment on deposit before they will execute your purchase.
If you sell a bond, you will receive the firm’s payment in approximately three business days.
Sources of Information
If you are interested in a new or proposed bond offering, ask your investment advisor for a prospectus, the official offering statement the issuer must file with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Detailed information on new bond issues is provided as well by two of the rating agencies in their weekly publications – Moody’s Credit Perspectives and Standard & Poor’s Credit Week. These two companies also publish information on existing bond issues.
Check Moody’s Bond Record and Moody’s Manuals or Standard & Poor’s Bond Guide and Standard & Poor’s Corporation Records. Most investment offices have these publications, as do many libraries.
Additionally, you can find information on corporate bond issues on the Internet through various individual investor sites.
How quickly and easily a particular bond can be bought or sold determines its marketability. To the extent the term “marketability” is used interchangeably with “liquidity,” it also implies that the price of the security will not change much under normal market conditions. In general, for a bond to enjoy high marketability, there must be a large trading volume and a large number of dealers in the security.
Investment advisors often sell bonds from their firms’ inventory, in which case investors do not pay an outright commission. Rather, they pay a markup that is built into the price quoted for the bond. If an advisor has to go out into the market to find a particular bond for a customer, a commission may be charged. Each firm establishes its own markups and commissions, which may vary depending on the size of the transaction and the type of bond you are purchasing.