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Subordinated Debt


Subordinated debt refers to a loan or security that ranks lower than other loans or securities with regard to claims on a company’s assets or earnings. In the case of a default, creditors who own subordinated debt won’t be paid out until after the senior debt holders are compensated. Therefore, subordinated debt is considered riskier than senior debt.


The phonetics of the keyword “Subordinated Debt” is: suh-bawr-dn-ey-tid det.

Key Takeaways

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  1. Lower Repayment Priority: Subordinated debt is a type of debt that ranks below other debts with regard to claims on assets or earnings. In the event of liquidation, subordinated debt is only repaid after all other debts and liabilities have been settled.
  2. Higher Interest Rates: As subordinated debt carries a higher risk due to its lower priority during repayment, it typically comes with a higher interest rate to compensate for the increased risk. This makes it an expensive form of financing for companies but a potentially lucrative investment for creditors.
  3. Balance Sheet Impact: Subordinated debt can be an effective way for businesses to attract investment without diluting ownership. However, excessive reliance on subordinated debt can lead to a riskier financial position and potential difficulties in attracting further financing.

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Subordinated Debt is a crucial concept in finance and business as it stands for a loan or security that ranks below other loans or securities concerning claims on assets or earnings. This debt is important because in the event of a business default or bankruptcy, subordinated debt will only be repaid after all other corporate debts and obligations have been satisfied. Therefore, while this type of debt can potentially offer higher returns through elevated interest rates due to increased risk, it also showcases added financial risk for lenders or investors. The understanding of such debt is essential for them to make an informed decision based on the risk-reward trade-off. Hence, the company’s creditworthiness becomes a significant factor to consider. The format and structure of this debt can significantly affect a company’s financial health and its ability to raise future capital.


Subordinated debt, also known as subordinated loan, junior debt or sub debt, primarily serves the purpose of business financing. Business entities use it as a means to raise funds for various corporate operations and business activities. Lenders provide money to these businesses with the understanding that repayment of this debt will only occur after the claims of the senior debt are fully satisfied. This type of arrangement is common during start-up funding, leveraged buyouts, and when businesses are looking to grow or invest in new projects. Since subordinated debt is risky from a lender’s perspective, because it has a lower claim on assets and earnings, it typically carries a higher interest rate compared to senior loans, making it a cost-effective way for corporations to access large amounts of capital.Subordinated debt can also be used as a tool for risk management. Beyond serving as a funding source, it increases the resilience of financial institutions by providing a layer of protection for depositors and senior creditors. In the event of a company’s bankruptcy or liquidation, creditors of subordinated debts fall below other creditors when it comes to debt recovery. The existence of subordinated debt means that losses are first borne by equity holders and then by subordinate lenders, thereby protecting senior creditors and depositors. This capital structure could potentially enhance a firm’s credit standing and lower the cost of borrowing in the future.


1. Corporate Bonds: A company might issue subordinated debt in the form of corporate bonds to raise capital. If the company was to go bankrupt, these bondholders would be paid back after the senior debt holders. For example, in 2015, telecommunication company Telefonica issued €2 billion worth of subordinated bonds with a 6.75% coupon intended to cover general corporate expenses and debt repayments.2. Bank Loans: Financial institutions such as Bank of America or HSBC often provide subordinated loans as a secondary financing option for businesses looking to grow or expand. For instance, Foursight Capital received a $100 million subordinated debt facility from Atalaya Capital Management to fund its automotive finance business. Since the debt is subordinated, if Foursight were to default on its debt, it would pay off all its primary lenders before Atalaya Capital Management.3. Mezzanine financing: This is a typical type of subordinated debt that combines debt and equity financing, often used in leveraged buyouts. When private equity firm TPG Capital purchased J Crew in a leveraged buyout, it used mezzanine debt as part of the financing. Here, the concept of subordinated debt comes into play since if J Crew went bankrupt, mezzanine debt lenders like TPG Capital would be amongst the last to be paid, only recovering their investment after all senior debt has been paid.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Subordinated Debt?

Subordinated Debt is a type of loan or security that ranks below other loans or securities with regard to claims on a company’s assets or earnings. In the event of a liquidation, subordinated debt is only repaid after all other corporate debts and loans have been settled.

Is Subordinated Debt considered risky?

Yes, Subordinated Debt comes with higher risk because in cases of default or bankruptcy, they are paid after senior debts. Due to this increased risk, they typically come with higher interest rates.

How does Subordinated Debt work?

Subordinated Debt works by being ranked beneath other debts in terms of priority for repayment. This ranking is structured in the debt agreement. In the event of bankruptcy or liquidation, the subordinated debt is only repaid once all other debts are fully paid.

What is the benefit of Subordinated Debt for businesses?

Despite the risk, Subordinated Debt can be beneficial in capital structure because they often have lower interest rates compared to equity and can increase total possible returns for equity owners.

Who can issue Subordinated Debt?

Subordinated debt can be issued by corporations, banks, and other financial institutions. It’s an alternative way for these entities to raise capital.

How is Subordinated Debt different from Unsubordinated Debt?

The primary difference between Subordinated Debt and Unsubordinated Debt is the priority for repayment. Unsubordinated debt, also known as senior debt, is given priority over other types of debt and is repaid first in the event of bankruptcy. Conversely, subordinated debt is repaid only after all other senior obligations have been satisfied.

Why does Subordinated Debt carry a high interest rate?

Subordinated Debt carries a high interest rate because they are riskier for lenders. If a borrower defaults or declares bankruptcy, the lender of a subordinated debt stands a higher chance of not getting repaid. To make up for this risk, lenders charge a higher interest rate.

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