Types of bonds

Bonds can be grouped by the type of interest they pay and the type of issuer.

Type of interest

Fixed rate bonds

Fixed rate bonds pay a fixed rate of interest (the coupon rate) for the life of the bond. Because fixed rate bonds pay interest at a fixed rate, they carry interest rate risk as well as credit quality risk. If market interest rates rise or the financial health of the issuer deteriorates, investors will demand a greater yield and the price of the bond will fall.

Floating rate bonds

Floating rate bonds make interest payments that are tied to some measure of current interest rates. A common measure is the 90 day bank bill swap rate or BBSW (a benchmark rate calculated by compiling an average of market rates supplied by certain approved banks for the sale and purchase of 90 day bank bills). Typically, the coupon will be expressed as a fixed margin above the benchmark rate (eg BBSW plus 2%).

Indexed bonds

Indexed bonds are generally medium to long-term bonds. The face value of the bond is adjusted periodically for movements in a nominated index, such as the Australian Consumer Price Index (CPI) or an index tied to the price of a particular commodity. Interest is usually paid at a fixed rate on the adjusted face value. At maturity, investors receive the adjusted face value of the indexed bond plus the final coupon based on the adjusted face value. Indexed bonds that are tied to a general measure of inflation (such as the CPI) ensure that you receive a return above the inflation rate throughout the entire life of the bond, giving you security whilst eliminating inflation risk. To compare the expected coupon payments on an indexed bond tied to CPI with that of a fixed rate bond, you simply add the expected inflation rate to the coupon rate of the indexed bond.

Type of issuer

Government bonds

Government bonds - Treasury Bonds (or ‘TBs’) and Treasury Indexed Bonds (or TIBs). TBs are fixed rate bonds and, as the name implies, TIBs are indexed bonds linked to the CPI. TBs and TIBs are usually issued in series, with each series having its own coupon rate and maturity date, some from less than one year and others to over fifteen years. They make up the largest single pool of bonds in the market and offer a wide range of bond series. Market makers also provide tight bid and offer prices for all TBs and TIBs quoted on ASX, providing investors with very high levels of liquidity. Given the size of the market, the liquidity and security of government bonds is unrivalled.

See the full list of TBs and TIBs traded on ASX including their term sheets.

Corporate bonds

There are a variety of corporate bonds traded on ASX. The terms of corporate bonds can vary quite markedly and therefore it is important that you read the prospectus or term sheet for an individual bond to understand its terms. It is important that you assess the creditworthiness of the issuer of the bond as that too can vary markedly between issuers.  See Credit Ratings for more info.

Simple and complex bonds

Bonds include a very broad array of different products that have markedly different terms and conditions. They range from so-called “simple bonds” to some very complex debt securities. (Read the new 'Understanding bonds' booklet for more information). That’s why it’s so important to read the prospectus or term sheet for a bond to understand the particular terms and conditions that apply to that bond. A bond is regarded as a “simple bond” if:

  • it has a fixed or floating coupon rate that does not change for the life of the security;
  • interest payments under the security are paid periodically and cannot be deferred or capitalised by the issuer;
  • it has a fixed maturity date which is not more than 15 years after its date of issue;
  • it is not subordinated to other debts owed to unsecured creditors generally; and
  • options).

Examples of more complex bonds include:

  • bonds that allow the issuer to defer or capitalise interest payments under certain conditions;
  • bonds that provide for the coupon rate to be re-set at certain times (often called “re-set” or “re-settable” bonds);
  • bonds that give the issuer the option to extend them but at the price of paying a higher coupon rate (typically called “step-up bonds”); and
  • bonds that are more properly characterised as “hybrid securities”, in that they combine features of debt securities and equity securities. Examples include convertible or converting bonds, perpetual bonds , subordinated bonds and knock-out bonds.

A security's description provides some information about the security's key features.

Consult the Guide to naming conventions and security descriptions to understand what the security description means.

Credit ratings and product complexity indicators can assist in assessing the risk of a particular bond.