CM.PR.O To Reset at 3.713%

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has announced:

the dividend rates applicable to its Non-cumulative Rate Reset Class A Preferred Shares Series 39 (Non-Viability Contingent Capital (NVCC)) (the “Series 39 Shares”) and Non-cumulative Floating Rate Class A Preferred Shares Series 40 (Non-Viability Contingent Capital (NVCC)) (the “Series 40 Shares”).

The fixed dividend rate applicable to the Series 39 Shares, should any remain outstanding after July 31, 2019, for the five-year period from and including July 31, 2019 to but excluding July 31, 2024 is 3.713%, payable quarterly as and when declared by the Board of Directors of CIBC.

The floating dividend rate applicable to the Series 40 Shares, should any be issued, for the three-month period from and including July 31, 2019 to but excluding October 31, 2019 is 3.981%, payable quarterly as and when declared by the Board of Directors of CIBC. CIBC has designated the Series 40 Shares as eligible to participate in the CIBC Shareholder Investment Plan.

Beneficial owners of Series 39 Shares who wish to exercise their conversion right should instruct their broker or other nominee to exercise such right during the conversion period, which runs from July 1, 2019 until 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time) on July 16, 2019. Any notices received after this deadline will not be valid.

CM.PR.O is a FixedReset, 3.90%+232, NVCC-compliant, that commenced trading 2014-6-11 after being announced 2014-6-2. The extension was announced 2019-6-12. It is tracked by HIMIPref™ and is assigned to the FixedReset (Discount) subindex.

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., CM.PR.O and the FloatingReset 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

Frankly, I am not sure how seriously to take the results charted above. FixedResets had a very strong day on June 28 which was emphatically not shared by their FloatingReset counterparts, where extant, and thus the calculated break-even point for the FloatingReset dividend rates (determined by the average bill rate until the next Exchange Date) has declined dramatically from the last calculation as of June 10. It is not yet clear, of course, whether this represents an actual change in market sentiment or whether this is an artifact of a few players’ day’s trading which will be quickly reversed. The following discussion will assume that this is representative of an actual change in sentiment, but please note that this conclusion is highly provisional!

The market has lost enthusiasm for floating rate product; the implied rates until the next interconversion are below the current 3-month bill rate as the averages for investment-grade and junk issues are at +0.34% and +0.68%, 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 CM.PR.O 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 (received in exchange for CM.PR.O) Trading Price In Current Conditions
  Assumed FloatingReset
Price if Implied Bill
is equal to
FixedReset Bid Price Spread 1.00% 0.50% 0.00%
CM.PR.O 17.17 232bp 16.78 16.28 15.78

Based on current market conditions, I suggest that the FloatingResets that will result from conversion are likely to trade well below the price of their FixedReset counterparts, CM.PR.O. Therefore, it seems likely that I will recommend that holders of CM.PR.O determine whether or not to convert based on their own portfolio considerations and forecast for policy rates continue to hold the issue and not to convert, but I will wait until it’s closer to the July 16 notification deadline before making a final pronouncement – particularly since, as noted above, the closing quotes for June 28 are highly suspect. I will note that once the FloatingResets commence trading (if, in fact, they do) it may be a good trade to swap one issue for the other in the market once both elements of each pair are trading and you can – hopefully – 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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