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Going digital: the new way to hedge risk

Although many industrial companies remain stubbornly unwilling to measure, let alone hedge, their trade credit exposures, there is no shortage of people looking to help them trade away their credit risk.

Allthough many industrial companies remain stubbornly unwilling to measure, let alone hedge, their trade credit exposures, there is no shortage of people looking to help them trade away their credit risk.


One of the most ambitious attempts to create a credit hedging facility for corporates has come from a fellow industrial company, Enron. For the past couple of years, Enron Credit has been trying to persuade companies to buy credit protection using its own product, the digital bankruptcy swap.


These credit derivatives differ from credit-default swaps in two crucial respects. First, they are triggered not by a range of credit events including default and debt restructuring but by a single event, bankruptcy. Second, in the event of bankruptcy, they pay out a fixed sum rather than an amount related to the market value of the defaulted asset.


Most credit derivative bankers are dismissive of Enron's product, characterizing it as a foolhardy attempt to devise a proprietary standard. Others concede that the idea has some merit. One observer calls the bankruptcy swap a good idea ahead of its time. In truth, the product has not taken off, although Bryan Seyfried at Enron Credit in London insists that volumes are growing.




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