What Is a Loan Credit Default Swap (LCDS)?

A loan credit default swap (LCDS) is a type of credit derivative in which the credit exposure of an underlying loan is exchanged between two parties. A loan credit default swap's structure is the same as a regular credit default swap (CDS), except that the underlying reference obligation is limited strictly to syndicated secured loans, rather than any type of corporate debt.

Loan credit default swaps can also be referred to as “loan-only credit default swaps.”

Key Takeaways

  • A loan credit default swap (LCDS) allows one counterparty to exchange the credit risk on a reference loan to another in return for premium payments.
  • A loan credit default swap has the same general structure as a regular credit default swap.
  • The difference is that in the LCDSD, the reference obligation underlying the contract can only be syndicated secured loans.

Understanding a Loan Credit Default Swap (LCDS)

The LCDS was introduced to the financial market in 2006. At the time, the hot market for credit default swaps showed that there was still an appetite for more credit derivatives, and the LCDS was largely seen as a CDS with the reference obligation shifting to syndicated debt instead of corporate debt. The International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) helped to standardize the contracts being used at the same time as the creation of syndicated secured loans for the purpose of leveraged buyouts was also increasing. 

The LCDS comes in two types. A cancelable LCDS is often referred to as a U.S. LCDS and is generally designed to be a trading product. As the name suggests, the cancelable LCDS can be canceled at an agreed-upon date or dates in the future without penalty costs. A non-cancelable LCDS, or European LCDS, is a hedging product that incorporates prepayment risk into its makeup. The non-cancelable LCDS remains in force until the underlying syndicated loans are repaid in full (or a credit event triggers it). As a U.S. LCDS has the option to cancel, these swaps are sold at a higher rate than comparable non-cancelable swaps.

The recovery rate for LCDS is much higher than for CDS on bonds because the underlying assets for LCDS are syndicated secured loans.

Loan Credit Default Swaps vs. Credit Default Swaps

As with regular credit default swaps, these derivative contracts can be used to hedge against credit exposure the buyer may have or to obtain credit exposure for the seller. A LCDS can also be used to make bets on the credit quality of an underlying entity to which parties have not had previous exposure.

The biggest difference between a LCDS and a CDS is the recovery rate. The debt underlying an LCDS is secured to assets and has priority in any liquidation proceedings, whereas the debt underlying a CDS, while senior to shares, is junior to secured loans. So the higher quality reference obligation for a LCDS leads to higher recovery values if that loan defaults. As a result, a LCDS generally trades at tighter spreads than an ordinary CDS.