RBI set to introduce credit default swaps

RBI set to introduce credit default swaps

Mumbai: The Reserve bank of India (RBI) on Wednesday proposed to introduce credit default swaps, or CDS, in Indian markets, enabling firms to hedge against any possible default by a bond issuer.

CDS is a derivative used to offset risks in debt markets. It allows creditors to insure themselves against the possibility that a borrower might default.

The draft guidelines were put up on RBI’s website late Wednesday. It did not say when the instrument would come in play but invited public comments to the report—titled “Draft Report of the Internal Group on Introduction of Credit Default Swaps for Corporate Bonds"—till 4 October.

This is the third time RBI has come out with a draft report on CDS. The first was in 2003 and second in 2007.

The introduction of CDS got stalled after a credit crunch hit the global financial system in the wake of the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008.

CDS was blamed for the crisis and the near collapse of largest insurance firm in the world, American International Group Inc. Investors were trading CDS as stand-alone instruments and the trade proliferated exponentially.

RBI has already introduced instruments such as repo, or repurchase, in corporate bonds or interest rate futures, but CDS is possibly the most sophisticated financial instrument the Indian market could be seeing.

Like all derivatives that reflect the value of an underlying instrument, CDS reflects the value of a bond or a loan. If an investor in a company’s bond wants to buy an insurance against a possible default by the issuer, the investor could buy CDS for a price, technically called CDS spread. The CDS seller, in turn, guarantees to pay the buyer a predetermined amount if the bond issuer defaults on repayment.

To avoid inherent risks, the draft report on CDS says users cannot purchase CDS without having an underlying exposure and the protection can be bought only to the extent (both in terms of quantum and tenure) of such underlying risk.

“Since the users are envisaged to use the CDS only for hedging their credit risks, the group recommended that the users shall not, at any point of time, maintain naked CDS protection," the draft report said.

This means CDS cannot be used as a pure trading instrument. “This instrument ensures that banks take position on companies from an arms length even when not directly lending to them. After some time, it could be possible that international CDS of Indian companies could be brought back to India for trading," said a banker who did not want to be identified.

To restrict users from holding naked CDS positions—CDS bought without underlying exposure—physical delivery is mandated in case of credit events, the report said, adding users are prohibited from selling CDS. It also proposed “rigorous audit" to ensure that buyers of CDS have underlying exposure, and to make “physical settlement" mandatory for CDS buyers.

Market-makers of these instruments, which include commercial banks, primary dealers and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), insurance companies and mutual funds, have other options to settle their positions.

Users category would consist of commercial banks, primary dealers, NBFCs, mutual funds, insurance companies, housing finance companies, provident funds and listed corporations.

“All CDS trades shall have a RBI-regulated entity at least on one side," the draft said.

At the initial stage, related parties or banks and their subsidiaries cannot enter into CDS transactions between themselves, since “it would be difficult to have an objective and transparent price discovery mechanism at the initial stages and, therefore, it would be difficult to determine whether an ‘arms’ length relationship exists or not". Market-makers should have sound financial fundamentals, the report said.

Market-makers cannot enter into CDS transactions without obtaining from the counterparty a copy of a resolution passed by their boards authorising it to transact in CDS.

RBI said a centralized CDS repository with reporting platform could be set up for transactions in CDS and it may be made mandatory for all CDS market-makers to report their trades on the platform within 30 minutes from the deal time. A separate reporting platform for CDS transactions would be developed and housed along with the reporting platform for over the counter derivatives.

In the interim, clearing houses such as Clearing Corporation of India Ltd can be given the responsibility on a non-guaranteed basis, it said.