What Is Eurocommercial Paper?

Eurocommercial paper (ECP) is an unsecured, short-term loan issued by a bank or corporation in the international money market. ECPs are denominated in a currency that is different from the domestic currency of the market where the paper—debt security, or bond—is issued.

Key Takeaways

  • Eurocommercial paper (ECP) is an unsecured, short-term loan issued by a bank or corporation in the international money market.
  • ECPs are uniquely denominated in a currency that differs from the domestic currency of the market where the paper is issued.
  • Because borrowers prefer to secure financing with the smallest cost of borrowing possible, ECPs are an ideal source of capital for institutional investors.

Understanding Eurocommercial Paper

To tap into the international money markets, corporations may issue eurocommercial paper to raise capital. As with other commercial papers, eurocommercial papers are rarely issued for a term longer than a year. In effect, ECPs are debt instruments issued by a borrower that needs funds in the short-term. The notes have maturities that range from 1 day to 365 days; the most common time to maturity is 182 days.

ECPs Are Classified as Unsecured Debt

In addition to their short-term maturities, ECPs are classified as unsecured debt. This means that interest or principal payment obligations on the notes are not guaranteed by collateral, which makes ECPs an attractive source of financing. Moreover, if the issuer defaults or goes bankrupt, the company will settle with secured debtholders before unsecured ECP holders. Though these debt securities may be issued in interest-bearing form, they are usually issued at a discount to face value in the form of a promissory note and quoted in the secondary market on a yield basis.

An Ideal Source of Capital for Institutional Investors

Eurocommercial papers are usually issued in higher denominations of $100,000, with a minimum investment amount of $500,000. For this reason, the eurocommercial market is dominated by institutional investors who have access to these securities in the secondary market. Issuers are particularly drawn to these debt instruments because the notes demand low interest rates. Because borrowers prefer to secure financing with the smallest cost of borrowing possible, ECPs are an ideal source of capital.

A Unique Feature of ECPs

A distinct feature of these notes is that the currency in which they are denominated differs from the currency of the market where the bond is issued. For example, if a U.S. corporation issues a short-term bond denominated in British pounds to finance its inventory through the international money market, it has issued eurocommercial paper. In this case, the U.S. firm seeks to encourage investment from pound-investors in the international money markets.

The settlement of eurocommercial paper is done through one of three clearinghouses, namely Euroclear, Clearstream, and the Depository Trust Company (DTC). ECPs settle in two working days, and overnight settlement is not an option.