1. What is a Government Security?

1.1 A Government security is a tradable instrument issued by the Central Government or the State Governments. It acknowledges the Government’s debt obligation.  Such securities are short term (usually called treasury bills, with original maturities of less than one year) or long term (usually called Government bonds or dated securities with original maturity of one year or more).  In India, the Central Government issues both, treasury bills and bonds or dated securities while the State Governments issue only bonds or dated securities, which are called the State Development Loans (SDLs).  Government securities carry practically no risk of default and, hence, are called risk-free gilt-edged instruments. Government of India also issues savings instruments (Savings Bonds, National Saving Certificates (NSCs), etc.) or special securities (oil bonds, Food Corporation of India bonds, fertiliser bonds, power bonds, etc.). They are, usually not fully tradable and are, therefore, not eligible to be SLR securities.

a. Treasury Bills (T-bills)

1.2 Treasury bills or T-bills, which are money market instruments, are short term debt instruments issued by the Government of India and are presently issued in three tenors, namely, 91 day, 182 day and 364 day. Treasury bills are zero coupon securities and pay no interest. They are issued at a discount and redeemed at the face value at maturity. For example, a 91 day Treasury bill of Rs.100/- (face value) may be issued at say Rs. 98.20, that is, at a discount of say, Rs.1.80 and would be redeemed at the face value of Rs.100/-. The return to the investors is the difference between the maturity value or the face value (that is Rs.100) and the issue price (for calculation of yield on Treasury Bills please see answer to question no. 26). The Reserve Bank of India conducts auctions usually every Wednesday to issue T-bills. Payments for the T-bills purchased are made on the following Friday. The 91 day T-bills are auctioned on every Wednesday. The Treasury bills of 182 days and 364 days tenure are auctioned on alternate Wednesdays. T-bills of  of 364 days tenure are auctioned on the Wednesday preceding the reporting Friday while 182 T-bills are auctioned on the Wednesday prior to a non-reporting Fridays. The Reserve Bank releases an annual calendar of T-bill issuances for a financial year in the last week of March of the previous financial year. The Reserve Bank of India announces the issue details of T-bills through a press release every week.

b. Cash Management Bills (CMBs)

1.3 Government of India, in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India, has decided to issue a new short-term instrument, known as Cash Management Bills (CMBs), to meet the temporary mismatches in the cash flow of the Government. The CMBs have the generic character of T-bills but are issued for maturities less than 91 days. Like T-bills, they are also issued at a discount and redeemed at face value at maturity. The tenure, notified amount and date of issue of the CMBs depends upon the temporary cash requirement of the Government. The announcement of their auction is made by Reserve Bank of India through a Press Release which will be issued one day prior to the date of auction. The settlement of the auction is on T+1 basis. The non-competitive bidding scheme (referred to in paragraph number 4.3 and 4.4 under question No. 4) has not been extended to the CMBs. However, these instruments are tradable and qualify for ready forward facility. Investment in CMBs is also reckoned as an eligible investment in Government securities by banks for SLR purpose under Section 24 of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949. First set of CMBs were issued on May 12, 2010.

c. Dated Government Securities

1.4 Dated Government securities are long term securities and carry a fixed or floating  coupon (interest rate) which is paid on the face value, payable at fixed time periods (usually half-yearly). The tenor of dated securities can be up to 30 years.

The Public Debt Office (PDO) of the Reserve Bank of India acts as the registry / depository of Government securities and deals with the issue, interest payment and repayment of principal at maturity. Most of the dated securities are fixed coupon securities.

The nomenclature of a typical dated fixed coupon Government security contains the following features – coupon, name of the issuer, maturity and face value.  For example, 7.49% GS 2017 would mean:

Coupon                                      : 7.49% paid on face value
Name of Issuer                           : Government of India
Date of Issue                              : April 16, 2007
Maturity                                     : April 16, 2017
Coupon Payment Dates              : Half-yearly (October 16 and April 16) every year
Minimum Amount of issue/ sale   : Rs.10,000

In case there are two securities with the same coupon and are maturing in the same year, then one of the securities will have the month attached as suffix in the nomenclature. For example, 6.05% GS 2019 FEB, would mean that Government security having coupon 6.05 % that mature in February 2019 along with the other security with the same coupon, namely,, 6.05% 2019 which is maturing in June 2019.

If the coupon payment date falls on a Sunday or a holiday, the coupon payment is made on the next working day. However, if the maturity date falls on a Sunday or a holiday, the redemption proceeds are paid on the previous working day itself.

1.5 The details of all the dated securities issued by the Government of India are available on the RBI website at http://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/financialmarketswatch.aspx. Just as in the case of Treasury Bills, dated securities of both, Government of India and State Governments, are issued by Reserve Bank through auctions. The Reserve Bank announces the auctions a week in advance through press releases. Government Security auctions are also announced through advertisements in major dailies. The investors, are thus, given adequate time to plan for the purchase of government securities through such auctions.

A specimen of a dated security in physical form is given at Annex 1.

1.6 Instruments:

  1. Fixed Rate Bonds – These are bonds on which the coupon rate is fixed for the entire life of the bond.  Most Government bonds are issued as fixed rate bonds.For example – 8.24%GS2018 was issued on April 22, 2008 for a tenor of 10 years maturing on April 22, 2018. Coupon on this security will be paid half-yearly at 4.12% (half yearly payment being the half of the annual coupon of 8.24%) of the face value on October 22 and April 22 of each year.
  2. Floating Rate Bonds – Floating Rate Bonds are securities which do not have a fixed coupon rate. The coupon is re-set at pre-announced intervals (say, every six months or one year) by adding a spread over a base rate. In the case of most floating rate bonds issued by the Government of India so far,the base rate is the weighted average cut-off yield of the last three 364- day Treasury Bill auctions preceding the coupon re-set date and the spread is decided through the auction. Floating Rate Bonds were first issued in September 1995 in India.For example, a Floating Rate Bond was issued on July 2, 2002 for a tenor of 15 years, thus maturing on July 2, 2017. The base rate on the bond for the coupon payments was fixed at 6.50% being the weighted average rate of implicit yield on 364-day Treasury Bills during the preceding six auctions. In the bond auction, a cut-off spread (markup over the benchmark rate) of 34 basis points (0.34%) was decided. Hence the coupon for the first six months was fixed at 6.84%.
  3. Zero Coupon Bonds – Zero coupon bonds are bonds with no coupon payments. Like Treasury Bills, they are issued at a discount to the face value. The Government of India issued such securities in the nineties, It has not issued zero coupon bond after that.
  4. Capital Indexed Bonds – These are bonds, the principal of which is linked to an accepted index of inflation with a view to protecting the holder from inflation. A capital indexed bond, with the principal hedged against inflation, was issued in December 1997. These bonds matured in 2002. The government is currently working on a fresh issuance of Inflation Indexed Bonds wherein payment of both, the coupon and the principal on the bonds, will be linked to an Inflation Index (Wholesale Price Index). In the proposed structure, the principal will be indexed and the coupon will be calculated on the indexed principal. In order to provide the holders protection against actual inflation, the final WPI will be used for indexation.
  5. Bonds with Call/ Put Options – Bonds can also be issued with features of optionality wherein the issuer can have the option to buy-back (call option) or the investor can have the option to sell the bond (put option) to the issuer during the currency of the bond. 6.72%GS2012 was issued on July 18, 2002 for a maturity of 10 years maturing on July 18, 2012. The optionality on the bond could be exercised after completion of five years tenure from the date of issuance on any coupon date falling thereafter. The Government has the right to buyback the bond (call option) at par value (equal to the face value) while the investor has the right to sell the bond (put option) to the Government at par value at the time of any of the half-yearly coupon dates starting from July 18, 2007.
  6. Special Securities – In addition to Treasury Bills and dated securities issued by the Government of India under the market borrowing programme, the Government of India also issues, from time to time, special securities to entities like Oil Marketing Companies, Fertilizer Companies, the Food Corporation of India, etc. as compensation to these companies in lieu of cash subsidies. These securities are usually long dated securities carrying coupon with a spread of about 20-25 basis points over the yield of the dated securities of comparable maturity. These securities are, however, not eligible SLR securities but are eligible as collateral for market repo transactions. The beneficiary oil marketing companies may divest these securities in the secondary market to banks, insurance companies / Primary Dealers, etc., for raising cash.
  7. Steps are being taken to introduce new types of instruments like STRIPS (Separate Trading of Registered Interest and Principal of Securities). Accordingly, guidelines for stripping and reconstitution of Government securities have been issued. STRIPS are instruments wherein each cash flow of the fixed coupon security is converted into a separate tradable Zero Coupon Bond and traded. For example, when Rs.100 of the 8.24%GS2018 is stripped, each cash flow of coupon (Rs.4.12 each half year) will become coupon STRIP and the principal payment (Rs.100 at maturity) will become a principal STRIP. These cash flows are traded separately as independent securities in the secondary market. STRIPS in Government securities will ensure availability of sovereign zero coupon bonds, which will facilitate the development of a market determined zero coupon yield curve (ZCYC). STRIPS will also provide institutional investors with an additional instrument for their asset- liability management. Further, as STRIPS have zero reinvestment risk, being zero coupon bonds, they can be attractive to retail/non-institutional investors. The process of stripping/reconstitution of Government securities is carried out at RBI, Public Debt Office (PDO) in the PDO-NDS (Negotiated Dealing System) at the option of the holder at any time from the date of issuance of a Government security till its maturity. All dated Government securities, other than floating rate bonds, having coupon payment dates on 2nd January and 2nd July, irrespective of the year of maturity are eligible for Stripping/Reconstitution. Eligible Government securities held in the Subsidiary General Leger (SGL)/Constituent Subsidiary General Ledger (CSGL) accounts maintained at the PDO, RBI, Mumbai. Physical securities shall not be eligible for stripping/reconstitution. Minimum amount of securities that needs to be submitted for stripping/reconstitution will be Rs. 1 crore (Face Value) and multiples thereof.

d. State Development Loans (SDLs)

1.7 State Governments also raise loans from the market. SDLs are dated securities issued through an auction similar to the auctions conducted for dated securities issued by the Central Government (see question 3 below). Interest is serviced at half-yearly intervals and the principal is repaid on the maturity date. Like dated securities issued by the Central Government, SDLs issued by the State Governments qualify for SLR. They are also eligible as collaterals for borrowing through market repo as well as borrowing by eligible entities from the RBI under the Liquidity Adjustment Facility (LAF).

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