An In-Depth Look at Perpetual Bonds in India

Investing in bonds is often considered a safe, steady option for those looking to balance their portfolios with fixed-income securities

Investing in bonds is often considered a safe, steady option for those looking to balance their portfolios with fixed-income securities. However, perpetual bonds stand out among the various types of bonds due to their unique characteristics and higher risk-reward profile. These bonds, as the name implies, offer interest payments indefinitely. This blog will delve into the nuances of perpetual bonds in India, examining their features, benefits, risks, and suitability for different investors.

What Are Perpetual Bonds?

Perpetual bonds are fixed-income securities that, unlike traditional bonds, do not have a maturity date. This means that they pay interest perpetually or forever. Investors who purchase these bonds can expect to receive interest payments indefinitely per the bond's terms. However, perpetual bonds typically include a 'call option,' allowing the issuer to redeem the bonds after a specific period, such as five or ten years, or when certain conditions are met. This call option gives issuers flexibility to buy back the bonds, often when it is financially advantageous for them to do so.

Who Issues Perpetual Bonds in India?

Governments and corporations can issue perpetual bonds, but banks are the most frequent issuers in India. Perpetual bonds, particularly those issued by banks, are called Additional Tier 1 (AT1) bonds. Major banks like the State Bank of India (SBI), HDFC Bank, and ICICI Bank issue these bonds to bolster their financial strength and meet capital adequacy requirements set by regulatory bodies to ensure depositor protection.

The Appeal of Bank Perpetual Bonds

Bank perpetual bonds are particularly attractive because they offer high interest rates. This ongoing interest payment is enticing to investors seeking steady income streams. For banks, issuing perpetual bonds is a strategic move to enhance their capital base, supporting financial stability and regulatory compliance.

Risks Associated with Perpetual Bonds

While the high interest rates of perpetual bonds can be appealing, these bonds carry significant risks that make them unsuitable for most retail investors.

Subordination in Capital Structure: Perpetual bonds have the lowest priority in a company's capital structure. In the event of liquidation, perpetual bondholders are paid only after all other bondholders have been compensated. This subordinate position adds to the risk profile of these bonds.

Principal Repayment: Unlike traditional ⦁ bonds, perpetual bonds do not repay the principal. Investors should be prepared to forgo the principal investment unless the issuer decides to exercise the call option. The potential lack of principal repayment means investors must be certain they do not need this capital back under any circumstances.

Write-off Risk: Regulatory authorities like the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have granted banks the authority to write off perpetual bonds in extreme situations to protect depositors. A notable example is the write-off of YES Bank’s perpetual bonds during its financial crisis, which highlighted the inherent risks in these instruments.

Market Liquidity and Interest Rate Risk: Perpetual bonds can be sold on the secondary market if listed, but liquidity can be a significant issue. If an investor needs to sell their bonds, they may not find a buyer willing to pay a fair price, especially if market interest rates have risen, which would reduce the bond's market value.

Interest Rates on Perpetual Bonds

Perpetual bonds offer high interest rates to compensate for their higher risk. Typically, the interest rates on these bonds are above 8%, reflecting their riskier nature compared to traditional bonds. This high yield makes them attractive to investors with a higher risk appetite who are seeking significant returns.

Suitability of Perpetual Bonds

Given their complex risk profile, perpetual bonds are generally not suitable for most retail investors. They are better suited for institutional investors who have a higher risk tolerance and a deeper understanding of the nuances of fixed-income securities. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has also placed restrictions on the purchase of these bonds to ensure that only sophisticated investors engage with them.


Perpetual bonds in India represent a unique investment vehicle that offers high returns at the cost of higher risks. Issued predominantly by banks, these bonds help institutions meet capital adequacy requirements while providing investors with an opportunity to earn significant interest indefinitely. However, the risks associated with perpetual bonds, such as subordination in the capital structure, potential write-offs, and market liquidity issues, make them unsuitable for most retail investors. Therefore, they are best left to institutional investors who can adequately assess and manage the associated risks.

Investors considering perpetual bonds should thoroughly understand these risks and evaluate their own financial goals and risk tolerance before investing. As with any investment, it is crucial to conduct due diligence and consult with financial advisors to ensure that the investment aligns with their overall portfolio strategy.

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