Negative Arbitrage

Negative arbitrage refers to a situation in which the borrower has to pay a higher interest rate on the funds they have placed in escrow than they receive from investing that money.

Key Takeaways

  • Negative arbitrage refers to the cost associated with delaying the investment of debt proceeds until a project can be funded.
  • If interest rates go down during a period that can range from a few days to several years, it is referred to as negative arbitrage.
  • The negative arbitrage cost is calculated by subtracting the cost of borrowing from the profit made by investing what has been borrowed.

What is Negative Arbitrage?

Negative arbitrage is a phenomenon in which bond issuers pay a higher interest rate to bondholders than the interest rate they earn on their investment. This occurs when the bond proceeds are held in different bank accounts or escrow for a certain period of time until the money is used to finance a project. In other words, negative arbitrage happens when the bond issuers receive less interest from their investments than what they owe to investors or bondholders.

How Does Negative Arbitrage Work?

Negative arbitrage occurs when an entity issues a bond at a higher interest rate than the current market rate. This can happen when the market rate changes during the offering process, resulting in the issuer earning less than what it has to pay out to bondholders. In this case, XYZ City issued $100,000,000 of 5% municipal bonds to finance construction costs but ended up earning only 2% in bank accounts due to falling interest rates. As a result, XYZ City lost 3% due to negative arbitrage.

Negative arbitrage is an unfortunate situation for issuers as they are unable to benefit from the lower interest rates and instead end up losing money on their investments. It is important for issuers to be aware of changing market conditions and adjust their offerings accordingly in order to avoid such losses. Issuers should also consider alternative financing options such as loans or equity investments that may provide more favorable terms and better returns on investment.

Why Does Negative Arbitrage Matter?

Negative arbitrage can have an impact on infrastructure investments as it reduces the return on investment for both the issuer and the investor. It also increases the cost of borrowing, making it more difficult for companies to access capital. Furthermore, negative arbitrage can lead to higher risk levels as investors may be reluctant to invest in bonds with high yields due to potential losses if interest rates rise. As such, it is important for companies and investors alike to understand how negative arbitrage works and its implications before entering into any financial transactions.

Examples of Negative Arbitrage

Negative arbitrage is a financial strategy that involves taking advantage of the difference between two different interest rates. In this example, a company planned to construct bridges in the city and used bonds to finance the construction expenses. The company issued 5% bonds, but after the deal was completed, interest rates plunged significantly.

The company received money from investors and put it in multiple bank accounts so that they could fund the bridge construction. However, due to the increase in interest rates before they got these bond proceeds in banks, they were able to earn 2% interest from the banks. This is an example of negative arbitrage as the company was able to take advantage of the difference between two different interest rates and make a profit out of it.


With negative arbitrage, bond issuers pay higher rates of interest to bondholders than they make on their own investments. Funds from bonds may be held in separate banking accounts or in escrow until they are required to finance a project. Put simply, negative arbitrage occurs when bond issuers get lower returns from their investments than what they owe to bondholders or investors.


When does negative arbitrage occur?

When borrowing costs are greater than lending charges, negative arbitrage occurs. Refinancing debt may also involve opportunity costs. If the interest rate changes unexpectedly, the borrower may end up paying more on their mortgage than they earn from the money set aside for debt payments. When utilizing the concept of bond refinancing, negative arbitrage is defined as the total losses incurred by borrowers due to investing the bond money in low-interest rate bank accounts.

How does negative arbitrage affect the bond insurer? 

The interest generated by the recently issued bonds is greater than what the individual would have earned had they placed the funds in escrow. The Federal Reserve has the authority to lower the interest rate at any time. When short-term interest rates decrease, the cost of opportunity goes up. This creates a situation of negative arbitrage, where the borrower receives less interest on their bonds than what must be repaid to the investors. Investments in infrastructure and other major projects are negatively affected by this.

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