The Basics of Distressed Debt: Everything You Need to Know

Author Ivan Smiljanic Read bio
Tags: distressed debt
Date: May 19, 2023

We often hear about distressed debt in various contexts, but it can be difficult to understand the nuances of how exactly this type of debt works.

This blog post will provide an overview of what distressed debt is, outlining its fundamentals and providing clarity on relevant terminology associated with financial distress.

All levels of experience are welcome as we strive to unravel the basics behind investing in distressed assets, offering key points that professionals should be aware of when engaging with such a complicated and increasingly popular asset class.

What Is Distressed Debt?

Distressed debt refers to debt instruments (such as bonds or loans) that are issued by companies or entities that are experiencing financial difficulties or are in default.

It is a fascinating concept that has arisen due to the financial difficulties experienced by companies that have difficulty repaying their debt obligations.

This can have a significant impact on a company’s capital structure, leading them to either restructure their balance sheet or liquidate some of their assets. Distressed debt investors seek out undervalued debt securities of companies facing financial difficulties and purchase them at deeply discounted prices.

These investors then use a range of strategies to enhance the value of distressed debt, which can result in significant rewards if executed correctly. Overall, distressed debt is a complex but exciting area of finance that can offer fantastic opportunities for investors who understand how it works.

Types of Distressed Debt Available on the Market

For investors seeking higher returns, distressed debt can offer an attractive opportunity. There are various types of distressed debt available on the market, each with its unique risk and reward profile. Among the most common distressed debt securities are:

  • Bank debt, 
  • Bonds, 
  • Trade claims, and 
  • Common and preferred shares.

Bank debt, for instance, is usually issued by companies going through financial distress and is considered less risky than other types of debt. Bonds, on the other hand, can be more volatile and offer higher returns but come with a greater risk of default.

Trade claims refer to debts owed to suppliers, and they provide investors with a chance to profit from the restructuring process or sell their claims to other investors. Common and preferred shares are equity securities that can provide higher returns if the company recovers, but are considered the riskiest type of distressed debt.

Understanding the various types of distressed debt and their risks and rewards can help investors make informed decisions and maximize their returns.

People standing on an escalator

Distressed Debt Investing: How to Identify Opportunities

Distressed debt investing has become an increasingly popular strategy among investors in recent years. This approach involves investing in the existing debt of a financially distressed entity, such as a company or government organization.

In order to identify opportunities for distressed debt investing, there are a few key factors that investors must look for. 

First and foremost, the entity in question must be experiencing some level of financial distress, whether that be related to their debt load or their inability to meet current debt covenants.

Additionally, distressed debt investors seek out entities with successful business models and in-demand products or services. By focusing on these three key factors, investors can identify promising opportunities for distressed debt investing that can potentially yield substantial returns.

Risk Management Strategies for Dealing With Distressed Debt

Distressed debt investing can be a lucrative venture, but it’s important to be aware of the potential sources of risk.

One such risk is the lack of access to financial information.

When due diligence is limited to a company’s public records, the picture of a company’s finances may be incomplete, which could lead to investment decisions that aren’t fully informed.

Additionally, there’s the potential for competition with other investors. If other distressed debt investors are slowly buying up a company’s debt, they may beat you to the majority share or gain seniority, leaving you with a less desirable position.

There is also the risk of future financial distress. Just because a company is restructured and you’ve gained an equity position doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to do well financially in the future. It’s important to be aware of all these potential sources of risk when considering a distressed debt investment.

Potential Rewards Associated With Investing in Distressed Debt

The most enticing aspect of this type of investment is undoubtedly the opportunity to buy bonds at a steep discount, providing the potential for huge returns down the line. And with so many economically sound companies currently experiencing financial hardship, there is no shortage of opportunities for intrepid investors.

The rise in distressed debt issuance in the US over the past year is a clear indication of just how attractive the field has become. For anyone with an appetite for risk and a keen sense of the market, distressed debt investing may well be the perfect avenue for generating substantial profits.

To sum up, investing in distressed debt should not be taken lightly. Although it carries the potential for large returns, investors need to be aware of certain risks and complications associated with this asset type. By understanding the foundation of distress debt, investors can gain a better understanding of this instrument when making decisions about their portfolios.

Looking for expert advice on distressed debt? Contact us to explore your options!