Written documents by which a government, corporation, or individual?the obligor?promises to perform a certain act, usually the payment of a definite sum of money, to another?the obligee?on a certain date.
In most cases, a bond is issued by a public or private entity to an investor who, by purchasing the bond, lends the issuer money. Governments and corporations issue bonds to investors in order to raise capital. Each bond has a par value, or face value, and is issued at a fixed or variable interest rate; however, bonds often can be purchased for less or more than their par value. This means that the yield, or total return on a bond, varies based on the price the investor pays for the bond and its interest rate. Generally, the more secure a bond is (i.e., the stronger the assurance that the bond will be paid in full upon maturity), the less the bond will yield to the investor. Bonds that are not very secure investments tend to have higher returns. Junk bonds, for example, are high-risk, high-yield bonds. Except for the high-risk variety, bonds tend to be relatively solid, predictable investments, with prices that vary less than those of those of stocks on the STOCK MARKET. As a result, litigation because of unpaid bond agreements has rarely proved necessary.
The most common type of bond is the simple bond. This bond is sold with a fixed interest rate and is then redeemed at a set time. Several varieties of simple bonds exist. Municipal governments issue simple bonds to pay for public projects such as schools, highways, or stadiums. The U.S. Treasury issues simple bonds to finance federal activities. Foreign governments issue simple bonds, known as Yankee bonds, to U.S. investors. Corporations issue simple bonds to raise capital for modernization, expansion, and operating expenses.
Conditional bonds do not involve capital loans. Most of these bonds are obtained from persons or corporations that promise to pay, should they become liable. The payment is usually a nonrefundable fee or a percentage of the face value of the bond. A bail bond is a common type of conditional bond. The person who posts a bail bond promises to pay the court a particular sum if the accused person fails to return to court for further proceedings on the date specified. Once a bond payer satisfies the terms of a conditional bond, the liability is discharged. If the bond goes into default (i.e., if the obligations specified are not met) the amount becomes immediately due. Parties also can mutually decide to cancel a conditional bond.