Income investors beware! Perpetual preferred shares are back!

After 3 years of issuances of rate-reset preferred shares, perpetual preferreds are making a comeback, but are investors fully aware of the risks?

In 2013, 2 major issuers, both Power Financial Corp and Great-West Lifeco announced a $150-million deal for perpetual preferred shares. Both deals were way oversubscribed, pushing both firms to upsize the original deal.

Are perpetual shares a good buy?

Depends…

The good:

These kinds of preferred shares issue dividends which are fixed at a set rate when they’re issued.

Second, preferred share dividends are more reliable than the dividends paid on a company’s common shares. If a company runs into financial difficulties, it first cuts common share dividends, then it cuts preferred share dividends.

Third, they are taxed efficiently. You benefit from the dividend tax credit, and this is their key advantage.

Fourth, perpetual preferred shares usually will pay more than retractable or rate-reset preferred shares.

The bad:

First, perpetual preferred shares have no maturity date. That’s great if you want to lock in a set dividend for a long period. But it also makes the dividends very sensitive to interest rate changes.

As a consequence you can be victim to major price fluctuation. This is very important to consider.

Second, for a perpetual preferred share, the most common way you can get your principal back is to sell your shares on the market—and you might get less than you paid.

In most cases the issuing company can “call” or buy back the shares at a set price after a period of time if the price gets too juicy in relation to the share’s face value.

Third, rates are at an all-time low. This most likely means that based on historical observations, it is expected that rates will eventually go higher. This would have a negative impact on the price of the preferred share.

In conclusion, although preferred shares seem to have a safe nature to them, perpetual can actually be very risky if you buy them at the wrong time. Our group has access to extensive research that helps us navigate through all the different issuers. We also possess historical returns of all preferred shares on the market.  Given the risk involved it is important to seek the help of a professional experienced with this type of investment. If you choose not to get professional advice, ensure that you do your homework and have as much information as possible.

To help you make sense of it all, I invite you to subscribe to our free bi-weekly newsletter and visit our website: www.thermgroup.ca.

Stephane Ruah is Director, Wealth Management and Investment Advisor at Richardson GMP Limited You can reach him directly: 514.288.4018 or Stephane.Ruah@RichardsonGMP.com

The opinions expressed should not assume they reflect the opinions or recommendations of Richardson GMP Limited or its affiliates. Assumptions, opinions and estimates constitute our judgment as of the date of this material and are subject to change without notice. We do not warrant the completeness or accuracy of this not be relied upon as such. Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Richardson GMP Limited is a member of Canadian Investor Protection Fund. Richardson is a trademark of James Richardson & Sons, Limited. GMP is a registered trademark of GMP Securities L.P. Both used under license by Richardson GMP Limited

Stephane Ruah

Stephane Ruah Director, Wealth Management Investment Advisor Stephane has been in the investment industry for nearly 10 years, most recently as a member of one of Canada’s top producing team where he was overseeing in excess of 2.7 billion in assets. Stephane holds a bachelor’s degree from the Université de Montréal, and also holds his Options Trading license. At an early age he displayed a true passion for the financial world and by the age of 13 he was investing in the stock market. Today, he is a frequent speaker at conferences and shares his expertise by writing regular publications.