BPO.PR.T to Reset at 5.383%

Brookfield Office Properties has announced (emphasis added):

the reset dividend rate on its Class AAA Preference Shares, Series T (“Series T Shares”) (TSX: BPO.PR.T) …

Series T Shares

If declared, the fixed quarterly dividends on the Series T Shares for the five years commencing January 1, 2019 and ending December 31, 2023 will be paid at an annual rate of 5.383% ($0.336438 per share per quarter).

Holders of Series T Shares have the right, at their option, exercisable not later than 5:00 p.m. (Toronto time) on December 17, 2018, to convert all or part of their Series T Shares, on a one-for-one basis, into Class AAA Preference Shares, Series U (the “Series U Shares”), effective December 31, 2018.

The quarterly floating rate dividends on the Series U Shares have an annual rate, calculated for each quarter, of 3.16% over the annual yield on three-month Government of Canada treasury bills. The actual quarterly dividend rate for the January 1, 2019 to March 31, 2019 dividend period for the Series U Shares will be 1.200820% (4.87% on an annualized basis) and the dividend, if declared, for such dividend period will be $0.300205 per share, payable on March 29, 2019.

Holders of Series T Shares are not required to elect to convert all or any part of their Series T Shares into Series U Shares.

As provided in the share conditions of the Series T Shares, (i) if Brookfield determines that there would be fewer than 1,000,000 Series T Shares outstanding after December 31, 2018, all remaining Series T Shares will be automatically converted into Series U Shares on a one-for-one basis effective December 31, 2018; and (ii) if Brookfield determines that there would be fewer than 1,000,000 Series U Shares outstanding after December 31, 2018, no Series T Shares will be permitted to be converted into Series U Shares. There are currently 10,000,000 Series T Shares outstanding.

The Toronto Stock Exchange (“TSX”) has conditionally approved the listing of the Series U Shares effective upon conversion. Listing of the Series U Shares is subject to Brookfield fulfilling all the listing requirements of the TSX and, upon approval, the Series U Shares will be listed on the TSX under the trading symbol “BPO.PR.L”.

BPO.PR.T is a FixedReset, 4.60%+316, that commenced trading 2012-9-13 after being announced 2012-9-5. It is tracked by HIMIPref™, but relegated to the Scraps – FixedReset Discount index on credit concerns.

The most logical way to analyze the question of whether or not to convert is through the theory of Preferred Pairs, for which a calculator is available. Briefly, a Strong Pair is defined as a pair of securities that can be interconverted in the future (e.g., BPO.PR.T and the FloatingReset, BPO.PR.L, that will exist if enough holders convert). Since they will be interconvertible on this future date, it may be assumed that they will be priced identically on this date (if they aren’t then holders will simply convert en masse to the higher-priced issue). And since they will be priced identically on a given date in the future, any current difference in price must be offset by expectations of an equal and opposite value of dividends to be received in the interim. And since the dividend rate on one element of the pair is both fixed and known, the implied average rate of the other, floating rate, instrument can be determined. Finally, we say, we may compare these average rates and take a view regarding the actual future course of that rate relative to the implied rate, which will provide us with guidance on which element of the pair is likely to outperform the other until the next interconversion date, at which time the process will be repeated.

We can show the break-even rates for each FixedReset / FloatingReset Strong Pair graphically by plotting the implied average 3-month bill rate against the next Exchange Date (which is the date to which the average will be calculated).

Click for Big

The market appears to be becoming relatively more interested in floating rate product; the implied rates until the next interconversion are above the current 3-month bill rate as the averages for investment-grade and junk issues are at +2.03% and +2.18%, respectively. Whatever might be the result of the next few Bank of Canada overnight rate decisions, I suggest that it is unlikely that the average rate over the next five years will be lower than current – but if you disagree, of course, you may interpret the data any way you like.

Since credit quality of each element of the pair is equal to the other element, it should not make any difference whether the pair examined is investment-grade or junk, although we might expect greater variation of implied rates between junk issues on grounds of lower liquidity, and this is just what we see.

If we plug in the current bid price of the BPO.PR.T FixedReset, we may construct the following table showing consistent prices for its soon-may-be-issued FloatingReset counterpart given a variety of Implied Breakeven yields consistent with issues currently trading:

Estimate of FloatingReset BPO.PR.L (received in exchange for BPO.PR.T) Trading Price In Current Conditions
  Assumed FloatingReset
Price if Implied Bill
is equal to
FixedReset Bid Price Spread 2.50% 2.00% 1.50%
BPO.PR.T 20.35 316bp 20.61 20.14 19.66

Based on current market conditions, I suggest that the FloatingResets, BPO.PR.L, that will result from conversion are likely to trade below the price of their FixedReset counterparts, BPO.PR.T. Therefore, it seems likely that I will recommend that holders of BPO.PR.T continue to hold the issue and not to convert, but I will wait until it’s closer to the December 17 notification deadline before making a final pronouncement. I will note that once the FloatingResets commence trading (if, in fact, they do) it may be a good trade to swap the FixedReset for the FloatingReset in the market once both elements of each pair are trading and you can – presumably, according to this analysis – do it with a reasonably good take-out in price, rather than doing it through the company on a 1:1 basis. But that, of course, will depend on the prices at that time and your forecast for the path of policy rates over the next five years. There are no guarantees – my recommendation is based on the assumption that current market conditions with respect to the pairs will continue until the FloatingResets commence trading and that the relative pricing of the two new pairs will reflect these conditions.

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