Information on investment risks

The advice given below is designed as a primer for investing in money market and capital market instruments, and to help you recognize and define your own risk tolerance for investments. The information presented here however cannot replace talking in person with your account manager.

Therefore, we request that you read this information carefully. Your account manager will gladly answer any questions you might have.

Risk means the possibility of failing to achieve the expected return on an investment and/or losing all or part of the invested capital. Such risk may be due to a variety of causes, depending on the specific structure of the product concerned. Such causes may be inherent in the product, the markets, or the issuer. Since risks are not always foreseeable, the following discussion must not be considered to be conclusive.

In any case, investors should pay particularly close attention to any risk related to the credit rating of the issuer of a product, which always depends on the individual case.

The description of the investment products is based on the most typical product characteristics. The decisive factor is always the specific structure of the product in question. For that reason, the following description is no substitute for a thorough examination of the specific product by the investor.

Generally, the following should be kept in mind when investing in securities:

  1. The potential return of every investment depends directly on the degree of risk. The higher the potential return, the higher the risk.
  2. Irrational factors (sentiment, opinions, expectations, rumors) may also impact prices and thus the return on your investment.
  3. Investing in several different types of securities can help to reduce the risk of the overall position (principle of risk diversification).
  4. Every customer is responsible for the proper taxation of his or her investment. The credit institution is not permitted to give tax advice outside the scope of investment advice.

Currency risk
In the case of transactions in foreign currency, the return and performance of an investment depends not only on the local yield of the security in the foreign market, but also heavily on the exchange rate development of the respective foreign currency relative to the currency of the investor (e.g. euro). This means that exchange rate fluctuations may increase or decrease the return and value of the investment

Transfer risk
Depending on the respective country involved, securities of foreign issuers pose the additional risk that political or exchange-control measures may complicate or even prevent the realisation of the investment. In addition, problems in connection with the settlement of an order may occur. In the case of foreign-currency transactions, such measures may obstruct the free convertibility of the currency.

Country risk
The country risk is the creditworthiness of a given country. The political or economic risk posed by a country may have negative consequences for all counterparties residing in this country.

Liquidity risk
Tradability (liquidity) refers to the possibility of buying or selling a security or closing out a position at the current market price at any time whatsoever. The market in a particular security is said to be narrow if an average sell order (measured by the usual trading volume) causes perceptible price fluctuations and if the order cannot be settled at all or only at a substantially lower price.

Credit risk
Credit risk refers to the possibility of counterpart default, i.e. the inability of one party to a transaction to meet obligations such as dividend payments, interest payments, repayment of principal when due or to meet such obligations for full value. Also called repayment risk or issuer's risk. Such risks are graded by means of “ratings”. A rating is scale of evaluation used to grade an issuer’s creditworthiness. The rating is prepared by rating agencies, notably on the basis of credit risk and country risk. The rating scale ranges from “AAA” (best credit rating) to “D” (worst credit rating).

Interest rate risk
The risk that losses will be incurred as a result of future interest rate movements in the market. A rise in interest rates on the market will lower the market price of a fixed-interest bond, whereas a fall in such interest rates will raise the market price of the bond.

Price risk
The risk of adverse movements in the value of individual investments. In the case of contingent liability transactions (forward exchange deals, futures, option writing, etc.), it is therefore necessary to provide collateral (margin requirement) or to put up further margin, which means tying up liquidity.

Risk of total loss
The risk that an investment may become completely worthless, e.g. due to its conception as a limited right. Total loss can occur, in particular, when the issuer of a security is no longer capable of meeting its payment obligations (insolvent), for economic or legal reasons.

Buying securities on credit
The purchase of securities on credit poses an increased risk. The credit raised must be repaid irrespective of the success of the investment. Furthermore, the credit costs reduce the return.

Placing orders
Buy or sell orders placed with the bank must at least indicate the designation of the investment, the quantity (number of securities/principal amount) to be purchased or sold, at what price the transaction should be carried out and over what period of time the order is valid.

Price limit
If buy or sell orders are placed with the instruction "at best" (no price limit), deals will be executed at the best possible price. This way, the capital requirement/selling proceeds remain unceratin. With a buy limit, the purchase price and thus the amount of capital employed is limited. No purchases will be made above the price limit. A sales limit stipulates the lowest acceptable selling price; no deals will be carried out below this price limit.

Important note: A stop market order will not be executed until the price formed on the stock reaches the selected stop limit. Once the order has been executed, it will enter into effect as an “at best” order, i.e. with no price limit. The price actually obtained may therefore differ significantly from the selected stop limit, especially in the case of securities on a tight market.

Time limit
You can set a time limit to determine the validity of orders. The period of validity of unlimited orders depends on the practices of the respective stock market.

Your CA investment adviser will inform you of further additions which can be made when placing an order.

Guaranty
The term “guaranty” may have a variety of meanings. The first meaning is the commitment made by a third party other than the issuer in order to ensure that the issuer will meet its liabilities. Another meaning is a commitment made by the issuer itself to perform a certain action regardless of the trend in certain indicators that would otherwise determine the amount of the issuer’s liability. Guaranties may also be related to a wide variety of other circumstances.

Capital guaranties are usually enforceable only until end of term (repayment), so that price fluctuations (price losses) are quite possible during the term. The quality of a capital guaranty depends to a significant extent on the guarantor’s creditworthiness.

Tax considerations
Your CA investment adviser will provide you with information on the general fiscal aspects of the individual investment products. The impact of an investment on your personal tax bill must be evaluated together with a tax consultant.

Risks on stock markets, especially secondary markets (e.g. Eastern Europe, Latin America, etc.)
There is no direct line of communications with most of the stock exchanges on secondary markets, i.e. all the orders must be forwarded by telephone. This can lead to mistakes or time delays.

In certain secondary stock markets, limited buy and sell orders are generally not possible. This means that limited orders cannot be given until the request has been made by telephone with the local broker, which can lead to time delays. In certain cases, such limits cannot be executed at all.

In certain stock markets it is difficult to receive the current prices on an ongoing basis, which makes it difficult to assess the customer’s existing position.

If a trading quotation is discontinued on stock exchange, it may no longer be possible to see such securities on the exchange in question. A transfer to another stock market may also cause problems.

In certain exchanges of secondary markets, the trading hours by no means correspond to Western European standards. Short trading hours of only three or four hours per day can lead to bottlenecks or failure to process securities orders.

Definition
Bonds (= debentures, notes) are securities that obligate the issuer (= debtor) to pay the bondholder (= creditor, buyer) interest on the capital invested and to repay the principal amount according to the bond terms. Besides such bonds in the strict sense of the term, there are also debentures that differ significantly from the above-mentioned characteristics and the description given below. We refer the reader in particular to the debentures described in the “Structured Products” section. Especially in that area, it is not the designation as a bond or debenture that is decisive for the product-specific risks but rather the specific structure of the product.

Return
The bond yield is composed of the interest on the capital and any difference between the purchase price and the price achieved upon sale/redemption of the bond.

Consequently, the return can only be determined in advance if the bond is held until maturity. With variable interest rates, the return cannot be specified in advance. For the sake of comparison, an annual yield (based on the assumption of bullet repayment) is calculated in line with international standards. Bond yields which are significantly above the generally customary level should always be questioned, with an increased credit risk being a possible reason.

The price achieved when selling a bond prior to redemption (market price) is not known in advance. Consequently, the return may be higher or lower than the yield calculated initially. In addition, transaction costs, if any, must be deducted from the overall return.

Credit risk
There is always the risk that the debtor is unable to pay all or part of his obligations, e.g. in the case of the debtor's insolvency. The credit standing of the debtor must therefore be considered in an investment decision.

Credit ratings (assessment of the creditworthiness of organisations) issued by independent rating agencies provide some guidance in this respect. The highest creditworthiness is "AAA" (e.g. for Austrian government bonds). In the case of low ratings (e.g. "B" or "C"), the risk of default (credit risk) is higher but by way of compensation the instruments generally pay a higher interest rate (risk premium). Investments with a rating comparable to BBB or higher are generally referred to as “investment grade”.

Price risk
If a bond is kept until maturity, the investor will receive the redemption price as stated in the bond terms. Please note the risk of early calling-in by the issuer, to the extent permitted by the terms and conditions of the issue.

If a bond is sold prior to maturity, the investor will receive the current market price. This price is regulated by supply and demand, which is also subject to the current interest rate level. For instance, the price of fixed-rate securities will fall if the interest on bonds with comparable maturities rises. Conversely, bonds will gain in value if the interest on bonds with comparable maturities falls.

A change in the issuer's creditworthiness may also affect the market price of a bond.

In the case of variable-interest bonds whose interest rate is indexed to the capital market rates, the risk of the interest being or becoming flat is considerably higher than with bonds whose interest rate depends on the money market rates.

The degree of change in the price of a bond in response to a change in the interest level is described by the indicator “duration”. The duration depends on the bond’s residual time to maturity. The bigger the duration, the greater the impact of changes of the general interest rate on the price, whether in a positive or negative direction.

Liquidity risk
The tradability of bonds depends on several factors, e.g. issuing volume, remaining time to maturity, stock market rules and market conditions. Bonds which are difficult to sell or cannot be sold at all must be held until maturity.

Bond trading
Bonds are traded on a stock exchange or over-the-counter. Your bank will quote buying and selling rates for certain bonds upon request.

There is no entitlement to negotiability, however.

In the case of bonds that are also traded on the stock market, the prices formed on the exhange may differ considerably from the off-the-market quotations. The risk of weak trading may be restricted by adding a limit on the order.

Some special bonds

Supplementary capital bonds
These are special subordinated bonds issued by Austrian banks. Interest payment can only be made if the bank has posted sufficient net profit for the year (before movement of reserves). Repayment of the capital prior to liquidation is subject to prorated deduction of the net loss accruing throughout the term of the supplementary capital bond.

Subordinated bank bonds
In case of the debtor's liquidation or insolvency, the investor will receive money only after all other, non-subordinated liabilities of the bond debtor have been settled. It is not possible to offset the claims to repayment arising out of the subordinated bond against the bond issuer’s claims.

High-yield bonds
High-yield bonds are securities for which an issuing entity (= debtor, issuer) with a low credit rating commits itself to the payment of fixed or variable interest on the capital received and to repay the capital to the holder (= creditor, buyer) in accordance with the terms of issue.

Your customer adviser will be pleased to inform you about further special bond types such as bonds with warrants, convertible bonds, zero-coupon bonds, etc.

Definition
Shares are securities evidencing an interest held in an enterprise (public limited company). The principal rights of shareholders are participating in the company's profits as well as the right to vote in the shareholders' meeting (exception: preferred stock).

Return
The yield on equity investments is composed of dividend payments as well as price gains or losses and cannot be predicted with certainty. The dividend is the distribution of earnings to shareholders as decided at the shareholders’ meeting. The dividend amount is expressed either as an absolute amount per share or as a percentage of the nominal value of the stock. The yield obtained from the dividend in relation to the share price is called dividend yield. In general, it is considerably lower than the dividend indicated as a percentage of the nominal value.

The greater part of earnings from equity investments is usually achieved from the stock's performance/price trend (see price risk).

Price risk
Stocks are usually traded on a public exchange. As a rule, prices are established daily on the basis of supply and demand. Investments in stocks may lead to considerable losses.

In general, the price of a stock depends on the business trend of the respective company as well as the general economic and political setting. Besides, irrational factors (investor sentiment, public opinion) may also influence the share price trend and thus the return on an investment.

Credit risk
As a shareholder, you hold an interest in a company. Consequently, your investments may be rendered worthless in particular by the company's insolvency.

Liquidity risk
Tradability may be limited in the case of shares with a narrow market (especially stocks quoted in the "Unregulated Market, over-the-counter trade).

If a stock is quoted in several stock exchanges, that may lead to differences in its negotiability on different international stock exchanges (e.g. quotation of an American stock in Frankfurt).

Stock trading
Stocks are traded on a public exchange and sometimes over-the-counter. In the case of stock exchange trading, the relevant stock exchange rules (trading lots, order types, contract settlement, etc.) must be observed. If a share is quoted at different stock exchanges in different currencies (e.g. a US stock quoted in euros at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange) it also entails an exchange rate risk. Please contact your investment adviser for further details.

When purchasing a stock in a foreign exchange, please bear in mind that foreign exchanges always charge “third-party fees” that accrue in addition to the bank’s usual fees. For the exact amount of such fees, contact your customer adviser.

Definition
Warrants are securities without interest and dividends attached, granting the owner the right to buy (call warrants) or sell (put warrants) a certain underlying asset (e.g. shares) at a previously fixed price (exercise price).

Return
The buyer of a call warrant has secured the purchase price of the underlying asset. A return can be obtained if the market price of the underlying asset exceeds the stipulated exercise price to the paid by the investor. The warrant holder may then buy the underlying instrument at the strike price and sell it immediately at the ruling market price.

An increase in the price of the underlying asset will usually lead to a proportionately higher percentage increase in the warrant price (leverage effect). Consequently, most warrant holders achieve a return through selling warrants.

The same applies, in the opposite direction, to put warrants. They usually rise in value if the price of the underlying asset decreases.

The return on warrant transactions cannot be established in advance.

The maximum loss is limited to the amount of capital invested.

Price risk
The risk inherent in warrant transactions is the possibility that, between purchase and expiration of the warrant, the underlying asset develops differently than expected at the time of purchase. In the worst case, the entire capital invested may be lost.

The price of a warrant depends also on the following factors:

  • Volatility of the underlying asset (a measure of the fluctuation margin anticipated at the time of purchase and, simultaneously, the most important input for determining the fairness of the warrant price). High volatility general implies a higher price for the warrant.
  • Remaining time to maturity (the longer the maturity of a warrant, the higher the price).

A decrease of volatility or diminishing time to maturity may cause the price of a warrant to remain unchaged or fall - even though the expectations in respect of the price trend of the underlying asset are met.

We generally advise against the purchase of warrants which are close to expiry. Buying warrants with high volatility makes your investment more expensive and is therefore highly speculative.

Liquidity risk
Warrants are usually issued only in small quantities, which increases the liquidity risk for investors. Because of this, individual warrants may be subject to particularly heavy price fluctuations.

Warrant trading
Warrants are traded on stock exchanges as well as over the counter (OTC). In many cases, the gap between the purchase price and selling price is larger for warrants traded OTC. This difference is for your account.

With respect to stock exchange trading, it is important to remember that the market has very low liquidity.

Warrant terms
Warrants do not have standardised terms. It is therefore imperative to obtain full information on the exact terms and conditions of a warrant, in particular:

  • Style of exercise: Is the warrant exercisable at any time during its life (American option) or only at expiry (European option)?
  • Subscription ratio: How many warrants are needed to obtain the underlying asset?
  • Exercise: Delivery of the underlying asset or cash settlement
  • Expiry: When does the option right expire? Please note that your bank will not exercise a warrant unless specifically instructed to do so!
  • Last trading day: This date is often a bit earlier than the expiry date, so that it cannot be taken for granted that the option can be sold at any time up to the expiry date.

“Structured investment instruments” are investment instruments for which the return and/or repayment of capital are not generally fixed but rather depend on certain future events or developments. Moreover, such investment instruments may be structured in such a way that the issuer may call them in early if the product reaches the target value; in such cases, they be even be called in automatically.

This section will describe the individual product types. We will use generic terms to refer to these product types, but those terms are not used uniformly on the market. Due to the many possibilities of linking, combining and disbursement related to such investment instruments, they have developed a wide variety of different structures whose selected names do not always follow the structures uniformly. For that reason, it is always necessary to examine the specific terms and conditions of the product. Your customer adviser will be happy to inform you of the various structures of such investment instruments.

Risks:

  1. When the terms provide for payments of interest and/or dividends, such payments may depend on future events or developments (indexes, baskets, individual stocks, certain prices, commodities, precious metals, etc.) and may therefore be reduced or even eliminated in the future.
  2. Repayments of principal may depend on future events or developments (indexes, baskets, individual stocks, certain prices, commodities, precious metals, etc.) and may therefore be reduced or even eliminated in the future.
  3. With respect to payments of interest and/or dividends as well as repayments of principal, it is necessary to take into account interest risk, currency risk, corporate risk, sector risk, country risk and credit risk (and possibly a lack of secured creditor rights and no claim for separation and recovery of assets not belonging to the bankrupt estate) as well as tax risks.
  4. The risks defined by paragraphs 1) through 3) above may lead to strong price fluctuations (price losses) during the term of the instrument regardless of any guarantees of interest, earnings, or principal; such risks may also make it difficult or impossible to sell the instrument before it reaches maturity.

Knock-out certificates (Turbo certificates)
The term “knock-out-certificate” means a certificate that evidences the right to buy or sell a certain underlying security at a certain price if the underlying security fails to reach the specified price threshold (knock-out threshold) before maturity. If it does reach the threshold level, the certificate will expire early and most of the investment will generally be lost. Depending on the price trend of the underlying security, a distinction is made between knock-out long certificates, which bank on a bull market, and knock-out short certificates, which are especially designed for bear markets. Besides normal knock-out-certificates, “leveraged” knock-out certificates are issued, usually under the name of “turbo certificates” (or leverage certificates).

When the price of the underlying security rises, the increase in the value of the turbo certificates will be disproportionately greater due to the lever (turbo) effect; the same effect occurs in the opposite direction when prices fall, however. Thus, high gains can be earned through small investments, but the risk of loss is increased, as well.

Return
A positive return can be earned if there is a favourable difference between the acquisition price or market price and the exercise price (making it possible to buy the underlying security at the lower exercise price or to sell it at the higher exercise price).

Risk
If the knock-out threshold is reached before maturity, either the certificate expires and becomes worthless or an estimated residual value is paid out (the product is “knocked out”). In the case of certain issuers, it suffices to knock out the certificate if the price reaches the knock-out level during the trading day (intraday). The closer the current stock market quotation is to the exercise price, the stronger the leverage effect. At the same time, however, the risk increases that the price will fall below the knock-out threshold and either the certificate will become worthess or the estimated residual value will be paid out.

Spread certificates
Spread certificates offer investors the possibility of sharing disproportionately in the performance of the underlying security in expectation of a share price or index varying within a certain price range (spread) defined by a starting point and a stopping point.

Return
A return can result from the share that is disproportionate to the performance of the underlying security.

Risk
If the final price established on the value date is below the starting point, the certificate will merely represent the price performance of the underlying security. If the price falls below the stopping point, the investor receives a fixed maximum redemption price at maturity with no right to share in the price increase.