Repurchase Agreements – alternative short term funding

| 16-04-2018 | treasuryXL |


There are times when a corporate needs to borrow funds – this can be accomplished in a manner of ways. If the corporate actually held securities (Government paper, bonds etc.), it could consider entering into a repurchase agreement – better known as a Repo. This transaction entails a trade where the corporate sells securities at an agreed price and date to a counterparty and purchases them back at a future date for an agreed price. In return, the corporate receives cash – in essence, a Repo is a collateralised loan. Let us look at the working and reasons behind this money market product.

As a funding instrument, repos have been around for 100 years – originally used by the Federal Reserve to facilitate open market operations. As a repo is a collateralised loan, the interest rate is, normally, lower than for unsecured lending. The major factor is the type of collateral that is offered. This can normally be Government paper, but can also include other forms of bonds and securitised paper. The interest amount is not paid separately, but included in the final price upon redemption. The classic term for a repo is a “sell and buyback” – the paper is sold in exchange for a principal amount and bought back on the agreed future date. The counterparty that buys the paper is entering into a reverse repo.

By offering the paper as collateral, the lender is entering into a secured transaction – if the borrower defaults, the lender still holds the paper. The preference in the market is for high quality liquid securities, though markets can be found for more opaque paper. After the financial crisis, the demand for repo trading rose sharply as the interbank market was reluctant to extend unsecured funding to counterparties.

The paper falls into 2 distinct categories – specials and general collateral. A special refers to a specific security (recognised by its unique ISIN number) that is in demand. These are bonds that are normally being very heavily traded in the market and market makers need to cover their short positions by borrowing the paper. As such the rates on specials can be appreciably lower than on normal repos – and far below the rates on the interbank money market. In particular times of shortage, rates can even be negative.

General collateral is any paper that is accepted as collateral at that moment – it could be any German Government paper as this is deemed by market participants as being of equal value and standing. Most collateral is subject to a haircut – due to the additional work involved and the potential credit risk. This means that a bond with a face value of EUR 1 million can only be used as collateral to borrow EUR 950,000. Whilst these loans are collateralised, and often cover Government paper, the is always a specific credit risk.

For the buyer of a repo, they are lending funds and receiving collateral. One of the main players on the buy side are Money Market Funds. For the seller there is an opportunity to receive short date finance whilst pledging assets that they are holding in their portfolio.

Repos normally have a short tenor – from overnight to 3 months. They facilitate the short dated market and provide funding at attractive rates, and assist bond traders in covering their positions.

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