Credit Rating Downgrades Amongst Commercial Real Estate Companies on the Swedish Corporate Bond Market : To BBB or not to BBB

Detta är en Master-uppsats från KTH/Fastigheter och byggande

Sammanfattning: In the last decade, Swedish commercial real estate companies have increased their presence on thecorporate bond market significantly. The real estate companies now account for the majority ofoutstanding bonds and the trend appears to continue. Furthermore, the companies strive to achieve acredit rating within the boundaries of what is known as Investment Grade. Being rated Investment Gradeby the rating agencies generally means access to a broader investor base and better terms for borrowing.Consequently, the investors on the Swedish bond market are now more exposed to the real estate marketand the real estate companies rely on the bond market for their financial needs. The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority has commented on the increased presence of commercialreal estate companies on the Swedish bond market and proclaimed that it is not clear whether it increasessystemic risk or not. However, as was shown by the Coronavirus pandemic, the Swedish bond markethas flaws relating to liquidity which can be triggered by an increased selling pressure. A scenario forincreased selling pressure could be a collective downgrade of commercial real estate companies to belowinvestment grade, also known as a fallen angel event. This degree project aims to increase the understanding within the field of risk analysis of credit ratingdowngrades of real estate companies issuing corporate bonds. Furthermore, the study aims to identify ifprerequisite factors for a downgrade scenario are present. This study is based on a multi-methodquantitative approach. The Altman Z-score will be performed on the companies in the lower bounds ofinvestment grade to identify if there are early warnings of financial distress and if any companies shouldbe downgraded. By means of a questionnaire, the aim is to identify how domestic investors are allowedto act in a downgrade scenario and what factors affect their actions. The study will also perform asensitivity analysis of the same companies to investigate how sensitive they are to changes in a set ofparameters before reaching the boundaries of investment grade established by the rating agencies. The study shows that one in five investors are required to sell a bond that has been downgraded to belowinvestment grade. This may cause a first mover advantage effect, which in turn leads to fire sale ofdowngraded bonds. Not in line with previous literature, one out of six insurance investors are notallowed to keep downgraded bonds according to the questionnaire results. Furthermore, the results ofthe survey indicate that the investors that are not allowed to keep downgraded bonds are to a large extentgoverned by regulatory restrictions. 81 percent of the investors have a discretionary mandate allowingthem to keep downgraded bonds and it is unclear how these investors will act in a fallen angel’s scenario.It can be argued that a discretionary mandate creates a setting for market shortcomings such asreputational concerns among portfolio managers. The study also showed that five of the analyzed companies achieved a Z-score equivalent belowInvestment Grade. This translates to approximately 15 percent of the real estate companies withinvestment grade which means that the results of the Altman Z-score suggests a three times higherdowngrade probability than the historical global average for Investment Grade rated companies. Thesensitivity analysis revealed that companies' sensitivity to net operating income ranged between 2 - 13percent with the majority of the companies between 2 - 6 percent. The sensitivity to valuation yieldranges from 0.05 - 0.76 percent with the majority in the range from 0.24 - 0.45 percent. Furthermore,the sensitivity to change in interest rate ranged between 0.45 - 2.25 percent with the majority reachinga downgrade trigger relating to interest coverage ratio with a change between 0.45 - 0.7 percent.

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