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Bond Market in India - Meaning, Types & How to Invest in Bonds

Bond market in India

Investments are classified in two types to put it simply:

• Fixed return investments
• Variable return investments

Investments with a fixed return provide a guaranteed return in exchange for the capital invested. These investments generally have a lock in period with low liquidity. Variable return investments are subject to market forces where the exact return on the investment is not guaranteed till the time the investor exits from the investment. Equities, mutual funds, gold, real estate are variable return investments.

One of the most popular types of fixed return investments are investment bonds.

What are bonds?

Bonds are instruments issued by a borrower to raise capital from investors or the public at large. Bonds are like loans which mature on a fixed date. In return, the borrower pays interest. Depending on the terms and conditions of the bond, the interest can be paid either at specified intervals or on maturity (deep discount bond)

What are the different types of bonds?

Bonds in India are generally issued by Government bodies. Having a government backing to the bonds provides security to the investor that these bonds will be repaid on maturity. However, other private institutions also issue bonds depending on their need.

These are the different types of bonds available for investment in India:

1. Central Government bonds:
These bonds are issued by the Central Government to raise funds. These bonds are issued by the RBI on behalf of the Government. The primary purpose of these bonds is to finance fiscal deficit and meet the shortfall of revenue in the Government budget. These bonds are the safest bonds to invest in, since they are backed by the Government and will be repaid on maturity.

2. State Government bonds:
These bonds are issued by the State Government to meet their fiscal deficits. These bonds are listed on the stock exchange. These bonds are also backed by the Government, making them low risk investments.

3. Municipal and Local authority bonds:
A municipal corporation or a local authority may raise finance to meet funding for specific goals such as constructing infrastructure, public water works etc. These bonds are also rated by credit rating agencies and it is best to go by the rating and past records before investing.

4. Corporate bonds:
These are highly risky bonds since the maturity depends on the track record of the company. Before investing in such bonds, you must do a complete study into the company and its performance.

5. Public Sector bonds:
These bonds are issued by highly rated public sector companies for meeting their growth and expansion needs. These bonds are relatively less risky since PSUs are under the Government. Generally, these bonds are issued by companies where the Central Government is the majority shareholder.

6. Tax free bonds:
Companies such as the National Highways Association of India (NHAI), Indian Railways Finance Corporation, HUDCO, Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) issue these bonds. The interest earned on these bonds is completely tax free in the hands of the investor.

Types of bond markets:

1. Primary market:
This is the market where the borrower approaches investors to raise capital. The issue price of the bonds and the coupon rate is fixed at the time of raising capital.

2. Secondary market:
Most of the bonds are traded in the stock market. They can be sold depending on when the investor wishes to exit from the bond. However, it is to be noted that the price for the bonds depends on how close the bond is to interest payment. As the bond nears the interest payment date, the price goes up. The price and coupon rate of the bond move inversely i.e if the price goes up, the interest rate goes down. This is because the net return to the investor stays the same as when the bond was issued in the primary market.

For example, if the bond is issued at Rs. 1,000 with a coupon rate of 8%, the interest will be Rs. 80. However, if the price goes up to Rs. 1,250, the interest rate goes down to 6.4%. However, the interest payment to the investor remains the same.

How to invest in bonds:

It is possible to invest in bonds in India using your demat account. Since these bonds open for subscription in the primary market, it is possible to apply for them online. If you do your trades through an offline broker, it is possible to fill up a form and submit it offline to your broker as well. The application will then be submitted into the issue.

Once the allotments are made, you will come to know how many bonds you are allotted. The process is similar to equity shares. Bonds have a minimum issue price and you can invest in bonds in India in multiples of the specified number. For example, a corporate bond may have an issue price of Rs. 1,000 and can be purchased in multiples of 5. This means the minimum issue is for 5 x Rs. 1,000 or Rs. 5,000. Further investments can be made in multiples of 5 i.e 10,20,35 etc.

Investing in the primary market is extremely simple and can also be done wholly online through the demat account. It is also possible to exit your bond investment online as well since these bonds are traded in the market. Bonds in India are listed on the stock exchange. Even though the price discovery for bonds is restricted, it offers low liquidity, which means the investor can exit these bonds ahead of their maturity should he wish. Generally, the price of bonds goes up as it nears the coupon payment date. The ideal exit strategy would be to sell bonds as it comes close to the interest payment date to get more than the payment price.

However, in case of deep discount bonds, the funds may be locked in till maturity depending on terms and conditions of the bond. A deep discount bond is a bond where no interest is paid but a higher amount is paid on maturity. For example, a deep discount bond may be issued for Rs. 20,000 and maturity price may be Rs. 95,000 after 10 years. No interest will be paid in these 10 years and the maturity amount will directly be credited to the investor’s account on maturity. Deep discount bonds are available for investment through the demat account or through a broker.

Another way to invest in bonds indirectly is to purchase debt mutual funds that primarily invest in bonds. These can be found out by analyzing the portfolio of the respective mutual funds.

The bond market in India does not have many players. It is dominated by Government bonds and entities. This provides safety and security of capital. The bond market however is very nascent and still growing. With increasing investor interest, bonds in India can turn out to be a fast growing market.


Disclaimer: Investment in securities market / Mutual Funds are subject to market risks, read all the related documents carefully before investing.