Will PWF.PR.J be redeemed early?

I had lunch today with an industry professional who expressed doubt over my fears (expressed by my according a high weight to Yield-to-Worst) that PWF.PR.J would be redeemed early. So, first, let’s look at the situation – the redemption schedule is:

Option Type Start End Strike
Redemption 2008-04-30 2009-04-29 26.000000
Redemption 2009-04-30 2010-04-29 25.750000
Redemption 2010-04-30 2011-04-29 25.500000
Redemption 2011-04-30 2012-04-29 25.250000
Redemption 2012-04-30 INFINITE DATE 25.000000
Retraction 2013-07-31 INFINITE DATE 26.040000

Since the closing quote on January 25 was $26.82-88, this give rise to the following information from the pseudoPortfolioReportBox:

PWF.PR.J Scenario Analysis
Event Date YTM Restricted YTM Probability
Call 2008-05-30 2.09 % 2.09 % 42.74 %
Soft Maturity 2013-07-30 3.45 % 3.45 % 57.26 %

Perhaps the exact dates, third decimal places and probabilities are arguable, but I think the basic facts above can be agreed by all practitioners.

So, in the HIMIPref™ analysis, the Yield-to-Worst is given a large weight in the REWARD_CLASS_YIELD component of valuation. In addition, the issue is tagged with the tradeSizeCalculationNotes tag of “14” indicating

If pseudoModifiedDurationWorstBid is less than minWorstBidPseudoModifiedDurationBuy, buySize and sellSize are set to 0.

Therefor, HIMIPref™ will not, given current market conditions, recommend the purchase of PWF.PR.J, since the internal calculateTradeSize function will always return a buySize of zero.

My companion said this is a load of hooey. PWF.PR.J has the lowest annual dividend of any of the Power Financial issues and therefore, if they redeem anything, it will be something else. Therefor, investors may assess this issue on the basis that it will survive until its softMaturity … maybe with an allowance for the risk of an early call, to be sure, but the default case is a pre-tax yield of 3.45% until 2013.

Well – I disagree. By me, the worst case is the default case. Remember, a pessimist is an optimist with experience. But let’s look at some details:

First: I agree that PWF.PR.J has the lowest coupon of any PWF issue … readers may confirm this by looking at the appropriate rows of the table on prefInfo. But let’s have a look at some of the details of these issues:

PWF Preferreds
Ticker Coupon Issue Type
PWF.PR.A $1.05 Perpetual Floater
PWF.PR.D $1.30 Retractible
PWF.PR.E $1.375 Perpetual
PWF.PR.F $1.3125 Perpetual
PWF.PR.G $1.475 Perpetual
PWF.PR.H $1.4375 Perpetual
PWF.PR.I $1.50 Perpetual
PWF.PR.J $1.175 Retractible
PWF.PR.K $1.2375 Perpetual
PWF.PR.L $1.275 Perpetual

Now … first off, let’s just guess that PWF could sell new retractibles with a $0.90 coupon. This looks kind of skimpy, but consider the CGI.PR.C, issued last March with a $0.975 coupon, and MFC.PR.A, trading to yield 3.13%, and of course the yield-to-retraction on the PWF.PR.J themselves of 3.45%. In light of this, a coupon of $0.90 on a new retractible doesn’t look all that much out of place.

New perpetuals … well, Sunlife, an equally rated credit (by DBRS) is in the process of selling (or has sold, depending on the terms of their underwriting!) perpetuals with a coupon of $1.125.

If, instead of looking at the gross coupon on PWF’s preferreds, one looks at the savings achievable by refinancing with an issue of similar characteristics, then a lot of the PWF.PR.J cheapness to the issuer disappears.

And that is still not the end of the story! When we look at the Annual Report for 2005, we find a note that regular readers will have got thoroughly sick and tired of by this time:

Effective for fiscal years beginning on or after November 1, 2004, CICA 3860, Financial Instruments — Disclosure and Presentation was amended to require obligations that an entity must or can settle by issuing a variable number of the issuer’s own equity instruments to be presented as liabilities rather than equity. On January 1, 2005, the Corporation adopted the amended standard retroactively with restatement of prior periods. Some of the Corporation’s ($300 million) preferred shares were reclassified from Shareholders’ equity and some of the subsidiaries’ ($1,366 million) preferred shares were reclassified from Non-controlling interests to Liabilities and the associated preferred dividends were reclassified to Financing charges in the Consolidated Statements of Earnings. The change does not have any impact on earnings per share or net earnings available to common share holders since preferred share dividends were previously deducted from net earnings in determining net earnings  available to common shareholders.

The moral of the story being: for reporting purposes, PWF.PR.J is a BOND, not a component of equity, and will get lumped in with bonds when reporting the all important coverage ratios.

So let’s have a look at some bonds. The Great-West Lifeco bond, 6.14% of March 2018, is currently indicated at a spread of 68bp over the Canada 4% 2016. The Canada 4% 2016 are (or were, anyway, at the time the indications I’m reading were prepared) trading to yield 4.208%, so we can say the GWL bonds of 2018 are trading to yield, oh, call it 4.90%.

Now … the important thing about preferred dividends is that the company has paid tax on them. This is an area in which I will not pretend to any great expertise, but let’s just assume, for the sake of an argument, that the company’s average tax rate (disclosed in Note 8 of their annual report) of 26% is equal to the marginal rate they would save if they magically converted the dividends on their retractibles to interest on bonds and were entitled to deduct it. We’ll make this a more familiar by calculating 1/(1-0.26) = 1.35 and calling this the equivalency factor … fortunately, this is pretty close to the Equivalency Factor for Fat Cat Ontarians of 1.4x that I normally use for illustrative purposes.

So … getting back to PWF.PR.J … commencing 2008, the company will, effectively, be borrowing $25.00 at an annual rate of a dividend of $1.175, less the annual saving (a reduction in deemedDividend to the shareholder, so I presume it costs the company extra as well) of $0.25, for a net cost of $0.925. This is an annual rate of 3.7. Multiply by the company’s equivalency factor of 1.35x and this is the equivalent, as far as their treasury department is concerned, of 5%.

AND, I’ll point out, the pref will only be 4-year money. They can issue 10-year paper for 4.90%. You are the treasurer. What do you do?

So, let me summarize my position on PWF.PR.J:

  • Since it is retractable, the proper benchmark as far as the company concerned is a bond, not other prefs.
  • 10-year bonds can be issued at a net cost lower than the 4-year pref
  • At the very least, the chance that the PWF.PR.J holder will get called early and experience the worst-case scenario is significant.
  • Analysis, schmanalysis. We’re fixed income investors here, and we hate risk, especially risks that depend on the day-to-day tone of the market and decisions made on the basis of an individual company’s capital structure
  • There are issues out there that carry significantly more yield
  • Even if we know, absolutely for certain, that the issue will hang on until the day before retraction, the yield is only 3.45%. At an equivalency factor of 1.4, this is an interest-equivalent of 4.83%.
  • Why don’t we simply buy a bond that yields this much, that has better credit protection? Just because the PWF.PR.J is classed as a bond-equivalent for balance sheet purposes, we don’t move closer to the front of the line if the company runs into trouble.

2 Responses to “Will PWF.PR.J be redeemed early?”

  1. […] Desjardins crossed 59,000 at 26.90, then another 38,000 at the same price. Now with a rather unattractive pre-tax bid-YTW of 2.35% based on a bid of $26.74 and a call 2008-5-30 at $26.00. I discussed this issue recently … I don’t really understand why anybody would pay such fancy prices in size …. but I suppose the buyer is firmly focussed on the 3.51% pre-tax bid-YTW resulting if the issue survives until its softMaturity 2013-7-30 at $25.00 […]

  2. […] Desjardins crossed 150,000 at $27.00. Now with a pre-tax bid-YTW of 2.10% based on a bid of 26.90 and a call 2008-5-30 at $26.00. I discussed”>http://www.prefblog.com/?p=524″>discussed earlier the chances of it getting redeemed before its time. And I haven’t changed my mind since then! […]

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