LeoGlossary: Call (Bond)

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In the world of finance, a callable bond is a debt security that gives the issuer (usually a company or government) the right to redeem the bond, or buy it back from the investor, before its maturity date. This differs from a non-callable bond, which the issuer can only redeem on the specific maturity date.

Here's how it works:

  • Issuance: The issuer offers callable bonds at a face value, with a fixed interest rate (coupon) that is paid periodically until the maturity date.
  • Call Provisions: The bond prospectus outlines the specific call provisions, including:
    • Call date(s): When the issuer can first and/or subsequently call the bond.
    • Call premium: An additional payment (usually a small percentage of the face value) paid to the investor if the bond is called before maturity.
    • Call yield: The return the investor receives if the bond is called on the earliest possible call date, factoring in the call premium.
  • Early redemption: If the issuer chooses to call the bond early, they pay the bondholder the face value plus the call premium. This can happen for various reasons, such as:
    • Interest rates falling: If the issuer can borrow money at a lower interest rate than the coupon rate on the callable bond, it may be advantageous to call the bond and issue new ones with a lower rate.

    • Changing financial needs: The issuer might need to access cash for other purposes and call the bonds to raise funds.

    • Market conditions: In a declining market, the issuer could call the bonds to avoid paying the higher coupon rate.

Pros and Cons for investors:

  • Pros:
    • Higher interest rates: Callable bonds typically offer higher coupon rates than non-callable bonds because of the call risk.
    • Early repayment: If interest rates fall, the call feature protects investors from reinvesting at a lower rate.
  • Cons:
    • Call risk: Investors cannot be sure they will receive the full stream of interest payments until the maturity date.

    • Reinvestment risk: If the bond is called, investors need to find a new investment with a similar or higher return, which can be challenging in a low-interest-rate environment.

Understanding callable bonds requires careful consideration of the call provisions, potential call scenarios, and their impact on your investment strategy.


The history of callable bonds takes us on a journey through centuries of debt financing, evolving market needs, and investor concerns. Here's a snapshot without visuals:

Early Origins (17th Century):

  • The concept of callable debt emerged in early loan agreements, with governments and corporations reserving the right to repay loans before the set term if circumstances changed.

  • However, formal issuance of callable bonds as distinct securities began in the 17th century, primarily by European governments to manage their finances.

Growth and Refinement (18th & 19th Centuries):

  • The use of callable bonds expanded in the 18th and 19th centuries with the rise of industrialization and infrastructure projects. Companies issued callable bonds to fund expansion while retaining flexibility in managing their debt burden.

  • Refinements in call provisions included setting specific call dates, establishing call premiums, and introducing limitations on when and how often bonds could be called.

20th Century Developments:

  • The 20th century saw widespread adoption of callable bonds, particularly in the United States, driven by:
    • Fluctuating interest rates: Callable bonds offered protection against rising rates for issuers and higher yields for investors willing to accept the call risk.

    • Market volatility: Call features provided additional safety and flexibility for issuers navigating unpredictable markets.

    • Innovation in financial instruments: New types of callable bonds emerged, like sinking fund calls and puttable bonds, catering to specific financing needs.

Modern Era and Recent Trends:

  • In the modern financial landscape, callable bonds remain a significant debt instrument across diverse sectors like corporations, governments, and even mortgage-backed securities. Recent trends include: Increased use of call protection covenants: Investors seek safeguards against early redemption, such as limitations on call frequency or penalties for early calls.
    • Focus on issuer creditworthiness: Assessing the issuer's financial health and call likelihood becomes crucial for informed investment decisions.

    • Development of hybrid callable structures: Some bonds combine callable features with other options like conversion or put rights, offering more complex risk-reward opportunities.

The evolution of callable bonds reflects constant adaptation to changing financial landscapes and investor preferences. Understanding their history provides a valuable lens through which to analyze their role in today's debt markets and make informed investment choices.


The process of issuing callable bonds involves several key steps, ensuring compliance with regulations and attracting potential investors. Here's a breakdown of the key stages:

1. Issuer Decision:

  • The issuer (company, government, etc.) decides to raise capital through bonds and determines if a callable feature is desirable. Factors like interest rate expectations, financing goals, and investor preferences influence this decision.

2. Legal and Financial Framework:

  • Lawyers and financial advisors draft the bond prospectus, outlining the terms and conditions, including:
    • Bond characteristics: Face value, coupon rate, maturity date, interest payment schedule.

    • Call provisions: Specific call dates, call premium percentage, limitations on call frequency, etc.

    • Investment covenants: Restrictions or requirements placed on the issuer's financial activities to protect investors.

    • Risk factors and disclosures: transparency regarding potential risks associated with the bond.

3. Credit Rating and Marketing:

  • Credit rating agencies assess the issuer's creditworthiness, influencing investor confidence and the bond's attractiveness.

  • Marketing materials and presentations are prepared, highlighting the bond's features and potential benefits for investors.

4. Underwriting and Registration:

  • investment banks act as underwriters, commit to purchasing the bonds from the issuer and then selling them to investors.

  • The bond offering may need registration with regulatory authorities depending on the jurisdiction and investor pool.

5. Investor Subscription and Allocation:

  • Investors submit orders to purchase the bonds during the subscription period.

  • Underwriters determine the final allocation of bonds based on investor demand and pricing considerations.

6. Bond Issuance and Settlement:

  • Upon successful completion of the offering, the issuer receives the raised capital, and the bonds are issued to investors.

  • Settlement involves the final transfer of funds and bond ownership between the issuer, underwriters, and investors.

7. Trading and Potential Call:

  • Callable bonds start trading in secondary markets, their price fluctuating based on market conditions and interest rates.

  • The issuer can exercise the call option on the specified call dates, repaying the bondholders with the face value and call premium, if applicable.

Throughout the process, legal and financial professionals ensure compliance with regulations, fair market practices, and investor protection standards. The complexity of issuing callable bonds necessitates careful planning, execution, and ongoing market monitoring to achieve successful financing and manage investor expectations.

Companies Issuing

A wide variety of companies across different industries issue callable bonds, but the specifics often depend on individual company needs and market conditions. Here's a breakdown of some common types of companies that utilize callable bonds:


  • Large, established companies with strong credit ratings and stable cash flow often issue callable bonds to:

    • Manage their debt efficiently by refinancing at lower interest rates if market conditions change.
    • Maintain financial flexibility by calling bonds if needed for acquisitions or other strategic initiatives.
    • Offer higher coupon rates to attract investors who are willing to accept the call risk.
  • Companies in cyclical industries like airlines, energy, or manufacturing may use callable bonds to manage their debt during periods of economic downturn.

Financial Institutions:

  • Banks and investment firms may issue callable bonds to raise capital for lending activities or manage their own liquidity needs.

  • Mortgage-backed securities often include callable features, allowing issuers to call back the underlying mortgages under certain conditions.

Governments and Public Agencies:

  • Governments at various levels (national, state, local) may utilize callable bonds for infrastructure projects or other financing needs.

  • Public agencies responsible for utilities, transportation, or other public services may use callable bonds to manage their debt burden.

Factors Affecting Callable Bond Issuance:

  • Interest Rate Expectations: Companies are more likely to issue callable bonds if they expect interest rates to fall in the future, as they can then call the bonds and reissue them at a lower rate.

  • Financial Flexibility: Callable bonds offer companies more flexibility in managing their debt than non-callable bonds.

  • Investor Demand: Investors may be more willing to purchase callable bonds if they offer a higher coupon rate than non-callable bonds.

  • Credit rating: Companies with strong credit ratings are more likely to be able to issue callable bonds.

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