Is the 50-year green SGS bond worth investing in?

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Bonds

By Beansprout • 26 Aug 2023 • 0 min read

The 50-year green SGS bond has been re-opened to investors at a yield of 3.04%. Applications for the SGS bond will close on 29 August.

50 year green sgs bond
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TL;DR

  • The 50-year Green SGS bond has been re-opened to investors at a yield of 3.04%. Maturing in 2072, investors will only receive their principal back after close to 49 years. 

  • If investors want to sell the bond before maturity, they would face interest rate risk and may incur a loss. In particular, a 50-year bond would be more sensitive to interest rate changes than those with shorter maturities. 

  • Investors should also be aware that there might be limited liquidity in the secondary market should they decide to sell the 50-year green SGS bond before its maturity. 

  • We’d give the SGS Green (Infra) bond a miss as the yield is not attractive enough for us to invest in such a long-tenor bond given the risks. 

What happened?

It’s hard to catch up if you are an investor looking to earn a higher yield on our savings in Singapore these days.

Many investors have been putting their money into T-bills despite the fall in yields. 

On the other hand, the interest rates on the Singapore Savings Bonds have rebounded slightly this month. 

More recently, the MAS has re-opened the 50-year green SGS bond (NC22300W) at a yield of 3.04% to retail investors. 

For investors who might be new to the SGS bond, let us dive deeper into the 50-year green SGS bond and understand if it might be worthwhile applying for.

50-year sgs green bond re-auction august 2023.jpg
Source: MAS

 

What is the Green SGS (Infrastructure) bond?

As the name suggests, the Green SGS (Infrastructure) bond is all about being green.

You’ve heard how water levels are rising and this will threaten Singapore’s long term existence as a low-lying city state. 

On certain days (especially on the ones you’re not working), you’d probably realise that the weather these days is much warmer than what it used to be. 

So the government came up with the Singapore Green Plan 2030 to drive initiatives to meet our long term aspiration of net zero emission.

As part of these initiatives, the government will take the lead by issuing up to S$35 billion of green bonds by 2030. 

This will support Singapore’s decarbonization efforts and deepen Singapore’s green finance market. 

Your next question will probably be, what are green bonds?

They are bonds issued by the government to finance major, long term green infrastructure projects. 

So, another keyword here is long-term. And here we get to one key characteristics of the inaugural green bond. 

It has a tenor of 50-years, which means that the bond will only mature in 2072. 

Think about this once again – 50 years. 2072. 

What is a re-opened auction?

The inaugural 50-year green SGS bond was first issued in August 2022 and priced at a yield of 3.04%.

The latest auction is a re-opened auction in which MAS issues more of an existing bond. This will increase the total amount outstanding of that bond. 

A re-opened bond has the same maturity date and coupon rate as the existing bond. In this case, the maturity date will be in August 2072. 

The amount issued in the re-opened auction is S$2.8 billion, slightly more than the S$2.4 billion of bonds issued in the initial issuance.  

There will be a fixed coupon of 3.00% per year, payable semi-annually until maturity. But as you will be paying S$99.26 per $100 in principal amount of the bonds, you will be getting an effective yield of 3.04% per year. 

How is it different from other SGS bonds?

There are a few key differences between the SGS Green (Infra) bond and other SGS bonds. 

The first as we have been highlighting, is that the SGS Green (Infra) bond has a much longer maturity of 50-years, compared to the usual SGS bonds that have a maturity of 2-30 years. 

Next, the SGS Green (Infra) bond can only be used to finance major, long-term green infrastructure projects. 

The last key difference lies largely in the application process. While SGS are usually issued via auction, the inaugural Green SGS (Infrastructure) is being issued via syndication. 

What this means is that yield of the SGS Green (Infra) bond has already been determined through a bookbuilding process with institutional and accredited investors. 

If you are interested in the SGS Green (Infra) bond, what is important for you here is that the application process is slightly different from the usual SGS bonds, which we will share later in the article.  

How is it different from the SSB? 

We thought it might be useful to compare the SGS Green (Infra) bond to the Singapore Savings Bond, since that is what most bond investors in Singapore are familiar with. 

Like the Singapore Savings Bonds, the SGS Green (Infra) bond is fully backed by the Singapore Government.

They offer a sound way for you to diversify your investment portfolios, while earning a regular interest payment. 

The key difference is that the Singapore Savings Bonds offer more flexibility compared to the SGS Green (Infra) bond

The SGS Green (Infra) bond has a fixed maturity of 50 years, which means that you need to be comfortable holding on to the bond for this period of time.  

While the SGS can be traded in the secondary market, the price you will receive may be lower than what you paid if you decide to sell them before maturity. 

On the other hand, the SSBs can be redeemed in any month with no penalty. You will receive the initial investment amount plus accrued interest upon redemption. 

What are the risks of the 50-year SGS green bond? 

So having shared the lack of flexibility compared to the Singapore Savings Bond, we thought it is worthwhile highlighting the risks of the SGS Green (Infra) bond.

Top of the list is interest rate risk, where you may incur a loss if you sell the bonds before their maturity date (gentle reminder: 2072). 

If interest rates continue to go up, the price of the bond will decline. And if you need to sell to bond to buy a house or pay for your children’s education (in say 2038), you will be getting back an amount that is below your initial capital. 

What is even more important to note here is that with a maturity of 50 years, the SGS Green (Infra) bond is considered a long-tenor bond. 

As a long tenor bond, it will be more sensitive to changes in market interest rates than shorter-tenor ones.

If you want a detailed explanation of how this happens, you can ask us on our Telegram group. 

To illustrate how sensitive the price of a long-tenor bond can be to changes in interest rates, we have pulled up the chart of the Austrian Government 100-year bond.

From a price of 130 in December 2021, it has halved to 56 as of 5 August 2022 as interest rates have gone up. 

You’d need to brace yourself for such price swings if you’re holding on to the SGS Green (Infra) bond. Or be prepared to hold it till maturity (in 2072). 

Graphical user interface, chart, line chart

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Source: Tradingview

 

As the inaugural 50-year SGS bond has been issued for a year now, we can observe its price action over the last few months. 

As we can tell from the chart provided by Bondsupermart, the price of the 50 year SGS bond has seen fairly significant movements following its issuance.

Remember once again that the price of a bond falls when interest rates rise, and vice versa. Hence, the price of the bond rose to reach 124.9 in May this year as interest rates fell during this period.

However, the price of the bond fell sharply by about 20% from the peak to be back to 100 now as interest rates rose subsequently. 

Hence, investors who are looking at investing in the 50-year SGS bond should be aware of such price risks. 

price on 50 year green sgs bond
Source: Bondsupermart

The other key risk is liquidity risk as there might be limited liquidity in the secondary market if you decide to sell the 50-year green SGS bond before its maturity. 

If there are few interested buyers in the market, you may not be able to sell the bonds at your desired price. 

Should I apply for the 50-year sovereign green bond?

So here’s the verdict – we’d give the SGS Green (Infra) bond a miss. To us, the yield of 3.04% is not attractive enough for us to invest in such a long-tenor bond given the risks. 

For a bond of such long maturity, the best comparison would be with the CPF scheme. Even then, the day that we can withdraw from our CPF is probably closer than the maturity of the SGS Green (Infra) bond for most of us reading this. 

But still, let’s use the CPF rates as a comparison.

At 3.04%, the yield on the SGS Green (Infra) bond is higher than the CPF Ordinary Account (OA) interest rate of 2.5%. However, it is below the current CPF Special Account (SA) interest rate of 4.01%. 

If you are comfortable with having your cash kept in the SA account, then topping up on your SA would provide you with a higher return compared to investing in the SGS Green (Infra) bond. By doing this, you get tax deductions too! 

Of course, you might say that the SGS Green (Infra) can be sold in the secondary market, but the CPF SA top-up will be locked up till withdrawal age.

So one instance where the SGS Green (Infra) bond might be of interest would be if you expect to make a capital gain out of it by selling it before maturity.

This could be the case if you expect interest rates to fall, which will cause the price of the bond to increase. 

The risks relating to this investment are worth repeating. You’d be exposed to interest rate risks where the price of the bond may decline if interest rates do not fall as expected. There might also not be liquidity should you wish to sell the bond in the secondary market before it matures. 

We'd prefer the Singapore Savings Bonds and T-bill over the 50-year Green SGS (Infra) bond due to their shorter maturities.

How do I apply for the 50 year green SGS bond?

If you are interested in the Green SGS bond, do take note of the following timeline. 

The closing date for applications is at 12 noon on 29 August 2023.

green sgs bond application deadline
Source: MAS

Applications can be made through the following channels: 

  • ATMs: DBS (including POSB), OCBC and UOB 
  • Internet banking: DBS (including POSB), OCBC and UOB 
  • Mobile banking apps: DBS and UOB
    A non-refundable administrative fee of S$2 will be charged at the point of application 

Please note the following: 

  • Use the ESA/IPO application, not the SGS application. On the ATM screen, internet banking website screen or mobile banking app, choose the Electronic Securities Application (ESA) or the IPO application. Do not apply through the SGS application, which is meant for SGS auctions and Singapore Savings Bonds. 
  • Submit one application only. Only one application per individual (across all banks) will be accepted. Multiple applications will be rejected. 
  • You need an individual CDP account. Applications made using joint CDP accounts will be invalid. 

Can I apply for the Green SGS (Infra) bond using CPF?

Only cash applications are accepted for this issue. CPF funds and SRS funds cannot be used for your application. 

After the issuance and the listing of the Bonds, you can check with your relevant bank and/or stockbroker if you wish to purchase the Bonds from the secondary market using CPF funds or SRS funds

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Source: MAS

 

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