Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Debt with Difficulties – Distressed Debt





Distressed debt or in Spanish debt with difficulties, refers to debt securities issued by companies that are in financial difficulties.


It can be understood by financial difficulties multitude of situations, depending on each company. So, for this type of debt to be considered distressed , the company in question must meet one of the following 3 situations:


Companies that are in financial default.

Companies that are almost in financial default.

Companies that have declared bankruptcy.

Investors who invest in this type of debt are known as “vultures”, hence the funds they invest in companies that have financial difficulties are known as “vulture funds”. Therefore, first buy the debt of these companies to subsequently seek a rapid improvement of it, obtaining a high profitability for it.


The main objective sought by “vulture funds” is to obtain high returns due to:


The company becomes more stable.

The value of your debt: increases in value.

If the company goes bankrupt, get a discount on the capital share of it.

In summary, the term distressed debt has two meanings:


The issuer of the debt has financial problems.

The issuer of the debt has financial problems.

The price of the debt reaches very low limits because of its distressed condition  and it is sold at a fraction of its face value.

The strategies followed by investors in this type of debt carry with them two main sources of risk: business risk and liquidity risk.


In principle, it should be taken into account that the state of the economy in general is not a concern for investors in distressed debt,  since they really have to worry about the problems of the company in question. However, poor market and economic conditions can increase the size of the distressed debt market and cause a higher level of debt to become distressed debt .



The term distressed debt can be very ambiguous, and therefore there does not seem to be a universal definition. However, in general terms, this type of debt does usually meet the following criteria:

  • The credit rating of the debt issue -if available- is equal to or less than CCC (S & P) or Caa (Moody’s). A low rating indicates that no interest is being paid and / or the issuer is in default . Remember the importance of credit ratings by rating agencies .
  • The current value of the issuance of debt in the market is less than 50% of its principal.
  • The yield to maturity of the debt issuance is at least 10% higher than the risk free interest rate.

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