Subordinated Debt

Subordinated debt, also known as junior debt or subordinated loan, refers to a type of debt that ranks below other debts in terms of claims on assets or earnings in the event of a liquidation or bankruptcy. In other words, subordinated debt is repaid only after all senior debts have been settled. This higher risk associated with subordinated debt typically results in higher interest rates to compensate lenders for the increased risk.

Importance of understanding subordinated debt

Risk assessment

Understanding subordinated debt helps investors and lenders assess the risk profile of their investments or loans. Since subordinated debt is repaid after senior debt, it carries a higher risk of non-repayment in case of the borrower’s insolvency.

Financial structuring

Companies often use subordinated debt as part of their financial structuring to raise additional capital without affecting their senior debt obligations. Knowledge of subordinated debt allows businesses to strategically manage their debt hierarchy and capital structure.

Yield enhancement

Subordinated debt often offers higher yields compared to senior debt due to its higher risk. Investors seeking higher returns can benefit from understanding the potential rewards and risks associated with subordinated debt investments.

Key components of subordinated debt

Ranking and priority

Subordinated debt ranks below senior debt in the repayment hierarchy. In the event of liquidation or bankruptcy, subordinated debt holders are repaid only after all senior debt obligations have been met.

Interest rates

Due to the higher risk associated with subordinated debt, lenders typically charge higher interest rates compared to senior debt. This compensates for the increased likelihood of non-repayment in the event of the borrower’s financial distress.

Covenants and terms

Subordinated debt agreements may include specific covenants and terms to protect the interests of lenders. These can include restrictions on additional borrowing, requirements for maintaining certain financial ratios, and other conditions to mitigate risk.

Use in capital structure

Companies use subordinated debt as a means of raising additional capital without jeopardising their senior debt arrangements. This allows businesses to access funds while maintaining favourable terms for their senior debt.

Pros and cons of subordinated debt


  • Higher yields: Subordinated debt typically offers higher interest rates, providing investors with higher potential returns.
  • Flexible financing: Companies can use subordinated debt to raise additional capital without affecting their senior debt obligations.
  • Risk diversification: Including subordinated debt in a portfolio can diversify an investor’s risk profile and enhance overall returns.


  • Higher risk: Subordinated debt carries a higher risk of non-repayment, especially in the event of the borrower’s insolvency.
  • Lower priority: In the case of liquidation or bankruptcy, subordinated debt holders are repaid only after all senior debt has been settled.
  • Stricter covenants: Subordinated debt agreements may include stringent covenants and terms, which can restrict the borrower’s financial and operational flexibility.

Applications of subordinated debt

Corporate financing

Companies often use subordinated debt to raise additional capital for expansion, acquisitions, or other strategic initiatives. This allows businesses to access funds without compromising their senior debt arrangements.

Bank capital requirements

Banks and financial institutions may issue subordinated debt to meet regulatory capital requirements. This type of debt is considered part of the bank’s tier 2 capital, helping to strengthen the institution’s overall capital structure.

Leveraged buyouts

In leveraged buyouts (LBOs), subordinated debt is commonly used to finance the acquisition of a company. The subordinated debt provides additional leverage to complete the transaction while maintaining the priority of senior debt.

Real estate financing

Real estate developers and investors may use subordinated debt to finance property acquisitions or development projects. This allows them to access additional funds while preserving senior debt arrangements.


Consider a manufacturing company that wants to expand its operations by acquiring a new facility. To finance the acquisition, the company uses a combination of senior debt and subordinated debt. The senior debt, provided by a bank, has a lower interest rate and higher priority in case of liquidation. The subordinated debt, issued as bonds to investors, carries a higher interest rate due to its lower priority.

  1. Senior debt: Bank loan with lower interest rate and higher priority
  2. Subordinated debt: Bonds issued to investors with higher interest rate and lower priority
  3. Acquisition financing: Combination of senior and subordinated debt used to finance the facility acquisition
  4. Repayment hierarchy: In case of liquidation, senior debt is repaid first, followed by subordinated debt

Learn more

For more information on subordinated debt and its implications, visit the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) website.


Subordinated debt plays a crucial role in corporate finance and investment strategies, offering higher yields in exchange for higher risk. Understanding the ranking, interest rates, and applications of subordinated debt helps companies structure their finances effectively and allows investors to make informed decisions. By leveraging subordinated debt, businesses can access additional capital, manage their debt hierarchy, and pursue strategic initiatives while providing investors with opportunities for higher returns.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this page is for general informational and educational purposes only and is never intended as financial advice. While we strive to ensure that the content is accurate and up-to-date, it may not reflect the most current legal or financial developments. Always consult with a qualified financial advisor or professional before making any financial decisions. Use the information at your own risk.

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