What Is a Non-Competitive Tender?

A non-competitive tender is a bid made by a small investor to purchase a debt issue that has its price based on the average price of all competitive tenders submitted. It is a method of distribution used primarily by the U.S. Treasury and is one of the two bid processes for buying debt issues. A non-competitive tender is for small investors, while the competitive tender is for large institutional investors. A non-competitive tender is also known as a non-competitive bid.

Key Takeaways

  • The U.S. Treasury holds public auctions to sell Treasury bills, notes, bonds, and Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS).
  • A non-competitive tender is a bid made by a small investor to purchase U.S. Treasury securities at auction; a competitive tender, on the other hand, is a bid made by a large, institutional investor.
  • Investors who submit competitive tenders specify the lowest rate, yield, or discount margin that they are willing to accept for the debt securities.
  • Competitive tenders may be rejected at auction if the rate specified is higher than the discount rate set at the auction.
  • With a non-competitive tender, investors agree to accept the discount rate determined at auction and are guaranteed to receive the security in the full amount they requested.

Understanding Non-Competitive Tenders

The U.S. Treasury holds weekly and monthly auctions to sell Treasury securities to the public. These securities include Treasury bills, notes, bonds, and Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS).

Interested parties typically place bids for the price and amount of debt securities they are willing to purchase. Bids are accepted up to 30 days in advance of the auction and may be submitted either electronically through the Treasury Automated Auction Processing System (TAAPS) or by mail. The bids are confidential and kept sealed until the auction date. Participants in any Treasury auction consist of small investors and institutional investors who submit bids categorized into competitive and non-competitive tenders.

Non-competitive tenders are submitted by smaller investors who are guaranteed to receive securities. However, there is no guarantee on the price or yield received. For Treasury bills (T-bills), each non-competitive bidder is limited to purchases of $5 million per auction. The Treasury issues bills for terms of 4, 8, 13, 26, and 52 weeks.

The U.S. Treasury issued approximately $11.806 trillion in securities through 322 public auctions in 2019.

The Yield and Price

The yield on the bond will be determined by the competitive side of the auction which is handled as a regular Dutch auction. A competitive tender is a bid submitted by bigger investors, such as institutional investors. Each bidder is limited to 35% of the amount of the offering per auction. Each bid submitted specifies the lowest rate, yield, or discount margin that the investor is willing to accept for the debt securities.

As there is an inverse relationship between yield and price, the lower the yield the higher the price bid. The bids with the lowest yield will be accepted first since the issuer will prefer to pay lower yields to its bond investors. The lowest yield / highest price which meets the supply of debt being sold serves as the winning yield after all non-competitive bids have been subtracted from the total amount of securities offered. (For related reading, see: Understanding Bond Prices and Yields.)

All investors who bid at or above the level of the winning yield receive securities with this yield. In other words, all bidders, competitive and non-competitive, will receive this yield.

After the Auction

On issue day, the Treasury delivers securities to non-competitive bidders who made their submissions in a particular auction. In exchange, the Treasury charges the accounts of those bidders for payment of the securities. The final price, discount rate, and yield is released to the public within two hours of the auction close.