The capital market, as it is known, is that segment of the financial market that deals with the effective channeling of medium to long-term funds from the surplus to the deficit unit. The process of transfer of funds is done through instruments, which are documents (or certificates), showing evidence of investments. The instruments traded (media of exchange) in the capital market are:

1.      Debt Instruments

A debt instrument is used by either companies or governments to generate funds for capital-intensive projects. It can obtained either through the primary or secondary market. The relationship in this form of instrument ownership is that of a borrower – creditor and thus, does not necessarily imply ownership in the business of the borrower. The contract is for a specific duration and interest is paid at specified periods as stated in the trust deed* (contract agreement). The principal sum invested, is therefore repaid at the expiration of the contract period with interest either paid quarterly, semi-annually or annually. The interest stated in the trust deed may be either fixed or flexible. The tenure of this category ranges from 3 to 25 years. Investment in this instrument is, most times, risk-free and therefore yields lower returns when compared to other instruments traded in the capital market. Investors in this category get top priority in the event of liquidation of a company.

When the instrument is issued by:

  • The Federal Government, it is called a Sovereign Bond;
  • A state government it is called a State Bond;
  • A local government, it is called a Municipal Bond; and
  • A corporate body (Company), it is called a Debenture, Industrial Loan or Corporate Bond

2.    Equities (also called Common Stock)

This instrument is issued by companies only and can also be obtained either in the primary market or the secondary market. Investment in this form of business translates to ownership of the business as the contract stands in perpetuity unless sold to another investor in the secondary market. The investor therefore possesses certain rights and privileges (such as to vote and hold position) in the company. Whereas the investor in debts may be entitled to interest which must be paid, the equity holder receives dividends which may or may not be declared.

The risk factor in this instrument is high and thus yields a higher return (when successful). Holders of this instrument however rank bottom on the scale of preference in the event of liquidation of a company as they are considered owners of the company.

3.      Preference Shares

This instrument is issued by corporate bodies and the investors rank second (after bond holders) on the scale of preference when a company goes under. The instrument possesses the characteristics of equity in the sense that when the authorised share capital and paid up capital are being calculated, they are added to equity capital to arrive at the total. Preference shares can also be treated as a debt instrument as they do not confer voting rights on its holders and have a dividend payment that is structured like interest (coupon) paid for bonds issues.

Preference shares may be:

  • Irredeemable, convertible: in this case, upon maturity of the instrument, the principal sum being returned to the investor is converted to equities even though dividends (interest) had earlier been paid.
  • Irredeemable, non-convertible: here, the holder can only sell his holding in the secondary market as the contract will always be rolled over upon maturity. The instrument will also not be converted to equities.
  • Redeemable: here the principal sum is repaid at the end of a specified period. In this case it is treated strictly as a debt instrument.

Note: interest may be cumulative, flexible or fixed depending on the agreement in the Trust Deed.

4.    Derivatives

These are instruments that derive from other securities, which are referred to as underlying assets (as the derivative is derived from them). The price, riskiness and function of the derivative depend on the underlying assets since whatever affects the underlying asset must affect the derivative. The derivative might be an asset, index or even situation.   Derivatives are mostly common in developed economies.

Some examples of derivatives are:

  • Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS)
  • Asset-Backed Securities (ABS)
  • Futures
  • Options
  • Swaps
  • Rights
  • Exchange Traded Funds or commodities

Of all the above stated derivatives, the common one in Nigeria is Rights where by the holder of an existing security gets the opportunity to acquire additional quantity to his holding in an allocated ratio.

*Note: a Trust Deed is a document that states the terms of a contract. It is held in trust by the Trustee.