Laboring Over LIBOR

Long accepted as a key rate benchmark, the London Interbank Offer Rate ("LIBOR") may be replaced by something else if a current deal is a trendsetter. According to Bloomberg reporter Cecile Gutscher, Electricite de France SA will repay interest on an 11 billion pound sterling loan - used to finance the acquisition of British Energy Group Plc - by first computing "an average of funding rates supplied by BNP Paribas SA, Deutsche Bank AG, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Pld, Banco Santander SA and Societe Generale SA." (See "EDF to Use Alternative to Libor on 11 Billion-Pound Buyout Loan," October 14, 2008)

This rate at which banks lend to each other in the global capital markets has had its ups and downs lately. Volatility, due in large part to the credit crisis and the resulting financial services industry fallout, has taken its toll. Borrowers, hedge fund investors and fixed-LIBOR interest rate swap counterparties represent just a few of the many organizations that are impacted by gyrating LIBOR rates.

According to a new research study, directional moves may not be the only concern about LIBOR. Authors Rosa Abrantes-Metz, Michael Kraten, Albert Metz and Gim Seow examine LIBOR rates relative to other short-term borrowing costs, along with an assessment of the "individual bank quotes that were submitted to the British Bankers Association." Seeking to dispel or validate the notion that LIBOR levels are artificially low (alleging that quoting banks do not want to be seen as needing money and therefore cite low rates), the authors conclude that manipulation is unlikely, noting some irregularities in the data. For more information, click to read "Abrantes-Metz, Rosa M., Kraten, Michael, Metz, Albert D. and Seow, "Gim, "LIBOR Manipulation?" (August 4, 2008).

This pension blog includes several posts about LIBOR and its varied applications: (a) derivative instrument trades such as swaps-linked LDI strategies (b) asset management performance analyses and (c) borrowing arrangements. See "Are Pension Investments Too Complicated?" (September 5, 2008) or "Lowballing LIBOR May Cost Pensions Plenty" (April 18, 2008).

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