Are you considering debt investment options in India? Here’s a quick reckoner!

There is so much about equity options and how to choose the best in them; there is very little covered about debt investment options. Debt instruments should be an integral part of your portfolio to build a comprehensive and well-balanced portfolio. The objective of investment options in India is to achieve optimal returns at a minimum level of risk.

Top 4 Debt Investment Options in India

Often, debt investment options are synonymous with fixed deposits which often form a major part of the portfolio without intending it. There are many other better-yielding debt instruments, we look at them here.

1. Corporate fixed deposits:

Corporate fixed deposits are term deposits which work exactly like your bank FDs but are offered by companies, NBFCs.  They have a fixed tenure and fixed interest rate that is pre-determined and explicitly mentioned.

Corporate FD v/s Bank FD:
Corporate FDs tend to provide you with a higher interest rate as compared to that Bank FDs. They also may have a lower penalty for early withdrawal as compared to bank FDs. The penalty charges for premature withdrawal of FDs are as per the guidelines set by RBI, whereas the penalty charges and tenure in the case of corporate FDs are determined by the NBFCs or the corporate that offers the deposits.

Risk-return: An important risk that one should consider whilst investing in Corporate fixed deposits is that the credit risk rating assigned to the deposit determines the company’s credibility in terms of payment of interest as agreed. The possibility of default risk in the case of corporate FDs is slightly higher when compared to that of bank FDs.

Best suited for: Corporate FDs are ideal for someone with a slightly higher risk appetite; a very conservative investor should steer clear of this investment option. One should look at a timeframe of around 6 months – 2 years. The income from Corporate FDs is taxable at normal rates, exactly as in the case of bank FDs.

2. Non-Convertible Debentures (NCD):

NCDs are debt instruments which are similar to bonds; they are issued by corporates to raise capital for the long term. They are done via public issue, their characteristics are similar to that of bonds; they have a fixed tenure and a fixed interest rate which is paid regularly. They are called non-convertible since they are not convertible into equity shares at the end of the tenure. There is a category of debentures which is converted into equity shares, hence the name to differentiate.

Types of NCD: There are 2 types of NCDs offered:

  • Secured NCDs:
    As the name suggests, these financial instruments are backed by the company’s assets. Upon default by the company to make payments to the investor, the investor will have the option to claim payments through the liquidation of company assets.
  • Unsecured NCDs:
    These instruments are not backed by company assets and hence, are inherently riskier compared to secured NCDs. However, they tend to offer higher returns as compared to secured NCDs.

Risk-return: The interest rates are higher than other debt investments such as Government bonds and fixed deposits; typically, the interest rates for NCDs range between 11% – 12%. The payment of interest could be monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually, as mentioned in the details.

As indicated earlier, the risk profile is higher than that of conventional debt instruments; correspondingly, the interest payout is higher. These NCDs are rated by credit rating agencies, and one should look for a high credit rating which is AAA or AA+.

Best suited for: NCDs are ideal for people who are looking for an alternative to Fixed deposits. They are typically well-suited for someone with a medium timeframe and relatively conservative investors.

3. Debt mutual funds:

Debt mutual funds are a variant within the mutual fund universe. It invests the pool of funds collected from investors in a set of fixed income securities such as government bonds, debentures, corporate bonds, money market instruments etc., depending on the mandate of the fund. These funds offer the benefit of diversification by investing in a basket of debt investments.

Risk-return: Returns are not guaranteed. Fund derives returns from underlying debt portfolio instruments. They offer capital appreciation over a period of time. Since the returns are not guaranteed, they are subject to market risks.

Tax efficiency: Debt mutual funds are beneficial from a tax efficiency perspective.
Debt mutual funds are liable to taxes only on redemption; the gains are assessed under capital gains if you have held the mutual fund units for a period lower than 3 years which is taxable at normal tax rates.
If held for over 3 years, they are assessed for long-term capital gains, you can avail of the indexation benefit, which adjusts the returns for the inflation rate and increases the purchase price, thereby bringing down the tax liability substantially. In case of dividend option, dividend received is taxed at marginal tax rate. Debt mutual funds have better liquidity compared to other debt instruments, except closed ended funds such as fixed maturity plans which come with a certain lock-in period.

Best suited for: These funds are a great means to diversify your debt portfolio, add higher risk adjusted returns. They also offer a great balance to your portfolio. There are a variety of debt mutual funds based on your risk appetite and tenure; you can choose based on what aligns best with your requirement. They also offer better liquidity compared to other debt investment options.

4. Market-linked debentures (MLD):

MLDs do not pay any coupon before maturity; upon maturity, a pay-off is paid along with the capital invested. This pay-off is not fixed or pre-determined as in the case of conventional debt investments. The pay-off depends on the underlying security or index movement as mandated in the scheme details. This is a relatively complex debt instrument; here is a simple example: if a company were to issue an MLD with a coupon rate of 8% per year, with a maturity period of 14 months.

Risk-return: However, there may be a condition that the 8% payoff is applicable only if the 10-year Government bond price does not fall below 25% of its price at issuance of MLD when measured at the time of maturity. If the Government bond has fallen below the stipulated level, then you get only the principal back.

However, if the condition is met, then you will get the payout alongside your principal amount. The feature of not losing the principal amount despite market fluctuation is called the principal – protection feature, which is unique to these MLDs. In some MLDs there is greater linkage with market performance and your principal is not protected. These instruments, too, carry the credit and liquidity risk as in the case of NCDs and corporate bonds.

Tax efficiency: This is a tax-efficient instrument. These MLDs are listed on the exchange, and redemption of these listed debentures is assessed under capital gains; if held for over a year, the taxability is 10%.

Best suited for:  These instruments are slightly riskier compared to other options given above; the contractual aspects of these instruments are complex and require a trained mind to understand the nuances. An ideal timeframe for this investment would be medium to long term; the returns from this type of investment can be higher but come at a higher risk. They are more suitable for higher Income slab investor.

Summary

This gives you a bird’s eye view of the various debt instruments available for investments. It is time to start exploring beyond your bank fixed and post office deposits. To get a deep dive into your investment options, reach out to our financial counsellors at TATA Capital, who will help you find the best debt investment options for your risk appetite and financial goals.

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