Dated G-Secs vs. T-bills vs. SDLs: Differences and Similarities
The government bonds market is by far the largest investment securities market in the world. Specifically, the Indian government bonds market size is around $1.2 trillion or a mind-boggling Rs. 100 lakh crores.
Mainly, there are three Types of Government Bonds or securities in India:
- Dated G-secs (or Dated Government Securities): Issued by the central government
- T-bills (or Treasury Bills): Issued by the central government
- SDLs (or State Development Loans): Issued by the state governments
This article will discuss each of the main types of government bonds and compare them to highlight their similarities and differences.
What are Dated G-secs or Dated Government Securities?
Dated G-secs are long-term Government Bonds issued by the central government. There are several types of Dated G-Secs available but the following are the most popular.
- Fixed rate Dated G-secs
- Floating rate Dated G-secs (also called FRBs = Floating Rate Bonds)
- Sovereign Gold Bonds or SGBs
- Inflation Indexed Bonds or IIBs
- 7.75% Savings (Taxable) Bonds, 2018
Dated G-secs are normal interest paying bonds with a semi-annual interest payment frequency.
What are T-bills or treasury bills?
A treasury bill is a short-term (less than one year) government security issued by the central government. Treasury bills have one of three tenures: 91 days, 182 days or 364 days.
Unlike normal Bonds that pay interest, T-bills are zero coupon instruments. Simply put, T-bills don’t pay regular interest but rather pay the entire profit at maturity.
Normal interest-paying bonds are issued at face values that are round numbers (for example, Rs. 1,000). However, T-bills and other zero coupon bonds are issued at a discounted price to the face value. The investor of a zero coupon bond receives the face value at maturity.
For example, a T-bill with a face value of Rs. 1,000 may be issued at a discount price of Rs. 950. On the maturity date, the T-bill investor will get the face value of Rs. 1,000.
What are SDLs or State Development Loans?
SDLs are long-term bonds issued by individual Indian states to finance state level budget deficits. Similar to the bonds issued by the central government, SDLs also have a sovereign guarantee.
Most SDLs are issued with a 10-year tenure and have a semi-annual interest payment frequency.
Dated G-secs vs. T-bills vs. SDLs
|Full form||Dated government securities||Treasury bills||State Development Loans|
|Definition||Long-term bonds issued by the central government||Short-term bonds issued by the central government||Long-term bonds issued by the state government|
|Sub-types||Fixed rate bonds, Floating rate bonds, Sovereign Gold Bonds etc.||Not applicable||Not applicable|
|Managed by||The Reserve Bank of India||The Reserve Bank of India||The Reserve Bank of India|
|Issued by||Government of India||Government of India||Individual state governments|
|Safety||Highest among all bonds||Highest among all bonds||Very high but slightly less than the bonds issued by the central government|
|Does it pay interest?||Interest paying bond||Zero coupon bond||Interest paying bond|
|Interest frequency||Semi-annual||Not applicable||Semi-annual|
|Expected return (YTM in Jan 2023)||Around 7.5% for 10 year G-Sec if held until maturity||Around 6.8% for 364-day T-bill if held until maturity||Depends on the state issuing the SDL but most are around 7.7%|
|Tenure||5 years to 40 years||91/182/364 days||Mostly 10 years but could be longer too|
|Is the interest rate fixed?||Fixed in most cases. Some Dated G-secs may have floating interest rates||Not applicable||Yes|
|Tax saving feature||Not applicable||Not applicable||Not applicable|
|Is tax exempt?||No||No||No|
|Is TDS applicable on interest payments?||No||No||No|
|Can act as collateral for bank loans?||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Can act as collateral for trading margin?||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Liquidity||Very good because of high trading volumes||Very good because of high trading volumes||Liquidity is bad because of low SDL trading volumes|
|Ease of investment||Easy, online investing is available||Easy, online investing is available||Easy, online investing is available|
|Alternative method of investing||Available through debt mutual funds/ETFs/PMS||Available through debt mutual funds/ETFs/PMS||Available through debt mutual funds/ETFs/PMS|
|Face value||Rs. 100||Rs. 100||Rs. 100|
|Minimum investment||Direct: Rs. 10,000
Through mutual funds: Rs. 500
|Direct: Rs. 10,000 Through mutual funds: Rs. 500||Direct: Rs. 10,000 Through mutual funds: Rs. 500|
|How to invest?||RBI Retail Direct or Your demat account||RBI Retail Direct or Your demat account||RBI Retail Direct or Your demat account|
|Taxation on interest payments||Considered as a part of your income and taxed accordingly||Not applicable||Considered as a part of your income and taxed accordingly|
|Taxation on short term capital gains||Considered as a part of your income and taxed accordingly||Considered as a part of your income and taxed accordingly||Considered as a part of your income and taxed accordingly|
|Taxation on long term capital gains||20% flat tax with the benefit of indexation||Not applicable||20% flat tax with the benefit of indexation|
|What are the investment risk(s)?||Interest rate risk and reinvestment risk||No prominent risk||Interest rate risk, reinvestment risk and liquidity risk|
Risks of investing in Government securities in India
There are 4 types of risks to which a government security may be exposed. Let’s define the risks and then see which government securities are exposed to them.
Credit default risk:
Credit default risk is the risk that the bond issuer (borrower of money) is unable to repay the debt obligation to the bondholders.
The stronger the financial position of the bond issuer, the lower is the credit risk and vice versa.
Interest rate risk:
Interest rates and bond prices are inversely related. Interest rate risk refers to the risk that the price of the bond may fall if the interest rate in the markets goes up.
Lear more about: Bond Yield vs Interest Rate
The longer the balance maturity of a bond, the higher will be the impact of changing interest rate on it.
Reinvestment risk is the risk that investors will not be able to reinvest the interest payments/coupons received at the same interest rate as the original bond.
For example: Suppose the interest rate of your bond is 8%. When you receive the interest and want to reinvest it, you may not be able to reinvest it at 8% but rather at a lower interest rate.
Liquidity risk is the risk that investors will not be able to liquidate/encash the bond quickly and at a fair market value.
This happens because of inadequate demand for the bond in the market.
Risk associated with all government securities:
|Instrument||Credit default risk||Interest rate risk||Reinvestment risk||Liquidity risk|
|Dated G-sec||None||High||High||Very low|
|T-bill||None||Very low||Not applicable||Very low|