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How NCDs are different from FDs

Parvatha Vardhini C &
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NCDs may be listed and traded on exchanges.
NCDs may be listed and traded on exchanges.

Companies such as Shriram Transport Finance, Muthoot Finance, Manappuram Finance and Shriram City Union Finance came out with Non-Convertible Debenture (NCD) issues in the recent past. NCD offers from other firms such as India Infoline and Religare Finvest are also on the cards. What are these NCDs and how different are they from Fixed Deposits (FDs)?

To begin with, like FDs, infrastructure bonds and tax-free bonds, companies use NCDs as another route to raise capital. For investors like you and I, an NCD is therefore yet another investment option available on the debt side.

Similarities

NCDs are similar to FDs in a few ways. For example, like FDs, the NCDs are issued by companies for varying time periods such as 400 days, three years, five years.

You can choose to receive the interest at maturity (cumulative option) or choose to receive it at certain intervals (non-cumulative option) if you require regular cash flows, just like you do for FDs. While bank and company FDs are not credit rated, both NBFC FDs and NCDs are rated by agencies such as CRISIL, ICRA or CARE.

Like in company FDs, the credit rating on NCDs serve as a filter to differentiate the less risky offers from the more risky ones.

For example, NCDs from both Manappuram Finance and Shriram City Union Finance were open simultaneously in August 2011, but while the former was given an AA- rating by CARE, the latter was rated AA, a notch higher, by the same agency. For both FDs and NCDs, the interest is not tax free. It is taxed under the head ‘Income from Other Sources’ at the slab rates.

Differences

There are however, few areas of distinction between these instruments. First, NCDs can either be secured or unsecured. A ‘secured’ NCD would mean that, in case the company is liquidated, the NCD holders would be given a priority in repayment of money due to them as they are secured by a charge on any of the assets of the company.

In this context, unsecured NCDs will be riskier, but companies compensate this by providing comparatively higher interest rates on these. Ditto with NCDs having a lower credit rating.

In FDs, there is no concept of secured or unsecured FDs. Bank FDs are generally covered by deposit insurance upto Rs 1 lakh. To this extent, they are secure. As this insurance is not available for other FDs, they are comparatively riskier. More so, if they have a low credit rating.

Secondly, investments in a five-year FD from scheduled banks are entitled to deduction under Sec 80C. NCDs of a similar tenure don’t enjoy this benefit. Besides, if FD interest is higher than Rs 10,000, tax is deducted at source (TDS) itself. There is no TDS for NCDs. Unlike FDs, they are mostly issued in demat form. Hence, investors may require a demat account.

The most important difference is that unlike FDs, NCDs can be listed and traded in the stock exchange, although the liquidity may not be too high.

A downward movement in interest rates for example, could lead to appreciation in the value of the NCD. Selling the NCDs in the market will attract short/long-term capital gains tax.

Vardhini.c@thehindu.co.in


NCDs may or may not be secured, while bank deposits are simply covered by deposit insurance to an extent.


(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 2, 2012)
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