Asset-Swapped Convertible Option Transaction (ASCOT)

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A structured investment method that enables investors to split the fixed-income and equity portions of a convertible bond.

An asset-swapped convertible option transaction (ASCOT) is a structured investment method that enables investors to split the fixed-income and equity portions of a convertible bond. A convertible bond is a form of bond that, at the bondholder's discretion, may be converted into a predetermined number of shares of the issuing business.

The bond's principal repayment and regular coupon payments make up the fixed income component, while the option to convert the bond into shares makes up the equity component.

An ASCOT entails giving a middleman, like an investment bank, a call option on the convertible bond in exchange for a cash payment upfront. The intermediary subsequently sells the convertible bond part to a different investor who is ready to assume the issuer's credit risk. By exercising the call option and paying a variable strike price that takes the cost of undoing the asset swap into account, the original bondholder retains the ability to purchase the convertible bond back at any point before maturity.

By using the asset swap method, the original bondholder can continue to have exposure to the convertible bond's fixed income portion while keeping it off of their balance sheet. A floating rate payment based on LIBOR plus an asset swap spread will be used in place of the bond's coupon payments as part of the asset swap (ASW). Depending on the state of the market, the ASW changes and reflects the issuer's credit risk. The initial bondholder pays the variable rate to the intermediary, who then transfers it to the bond buyer. The intermediary also gets the coupon payments from the original bondholder, who then gives them to the bond buyer to be collected.

The fundamental goal of adopting an ASCOT is to separate the equity risk from the convertible bond's credit risk. Investors who want to concentrate on one form of risk or protect themselves from another may find this to be advantageous. With an ASCOT, for instance, a shareholder who is optimistic about the issuer's stock price but bearish about its credit quality can sell the bond piece and maintain the option portion, establishing a leveraged position on the equity. By using an ASCOT to buy the bond portion and sell the option portion, an investor who is bullish on the credit quality but bearish on the stock price can essentially create a synthetic short position on the equities.

Exploiting arbitrage opportunities between the two parts of a convertible bond is another reason to use an ASCOT. The goal of the arbitrage strategy is to take advantage of market inefficiencies by buying and selling securities or derivatives at various prices or values. For instance, an arbitrageur can utilize an ASCOT to acquire a convertible bond, sell a call option, and engage in an asset exchange if the bond is trading below its fair value. By doing this, they can secure a reward that is risk-free and equivalent to the discrepancy between the convertible bond's fair value and market price.

The price and volatility of the underlying stock, the interest rate and credit spread curves, the conversion ratio and conditions of the convertible bond, and other variables all affect how much an ASCOT is worth. Using a binomial tree model, which calculates the payoffs and probabilities of each node, is a standard technique for pricing an ASCOT. This model replicates many possibilities for the stock price and interest rates over time. By discounting back these payoffs at the proper discount rates, the value of each ASCOT component can be determined.

An example of an ASCOT can be illustrated using hypothetical data from Blackrock, one of the world's largest asset managers. Let's say Blackrock released a $1,000, 5-year convertible bond with a 20-share conversion ratio and a 3% coupon rate. Blackrock's stock now has an annualized volatility of 25% and a price of $100. In comparison to Blackrock's credit spread, which is 1%, the risk-free rate is 2%. The bondholder may convert any bond at any moment into 20 shares worth $1,000 for $50, according to the conversion price.

Using a binomial tree model with 10 time steps per year, we can estimate that:
  • The fair value of Blackrock's convertible bond is $1,059.76.
  • The fair value of Blackrock's call option on its convertible bond is $59.76.
  • The fair value of Blackrock's straight bond (without conversion option) is $1,000.

The investor can sell 100 call options on their convertible bonds to a broker for $5,976 (100 x $59.76), and then enter into an asset exchange with them if they have 100 Blackrock convertible bonds and wish to use an ASCOT to sell the fixed income element and maintain the equity piece. Next, for $100,000 (100 x $1,000), the intermediary sells the 100 straight bonds to a different investor. The investor earns a fixed rate of 3% on $100,000 while paying the intermediary a floating rate of LIBOR + 1% on the same amount. However, the investor still has the ability to exercise the call options at any moment, purchasing the 100 convertible bonds at a floating strike price that takes the cost of undoing the asset exchange into account.

The ASCOT's return on investment for the investor is based on Blackrock's stock price when it matures. When the call options are exercised and the bonds are turned into shares, the investor will profit from the difference between the stock price and the strike price if the stock price is higher than $50. The investor will let the call options expire worthless and forfeit the initial investment if the stock price is below $50. The stock price of $52.99, which puts the payment from the ASCOT equal to zero, is the investor's breakeven point.

The following table summarizes the payoff scenarios for the investor:


The fixed income and equity halves of a convertible bond can be separated, allowing investors to tailor their risk exposure or arbitrage opportunities. In conclusion, an ASCOT is a complicated but practical product. An ASCOT entails exchanging assets with a middleman while selling an American call option on a convertible bond. The price and volatility of the stock market, interest rates, credit spreads, and the convertible bond's conversion terms are only a few of the variables that affect an ASCOT's value and payback.