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CAPITAL MARKETS

Libor transition: Are markets ready for a $350 trillion white-knuckle ride?

It is less than two and a half years until Libor, the benchmark on which trillions of dollars-worth of financial instruments are based, will disappear. That is a hopelessly ambitious timetable in which to complete what has been called the largest financial engineering project in history. Even if chaos is averted, the way in which banks lend, and indeed how corporates borrow, may never be the same again.

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It is 23.59 on December 31, 2021. In a minute’s time the London Interbank Offered rate, the interest rate on which trillions of dollars-worth of financial instruments are currently based, will cease to exist. The chance that all of these deals will have all been smoothly transitioned to the various alternatives that are now being developed is vanishingly small.

So, what will happen? At the most basic level any loan, bond or derivative that has not been transitioned will simply fall back to the last Libor rate before 2022 and stay there, jolting everything that is floating rate into a fixed rate instrument.