Concerns over complexity and structural leverage late in the credit cycle have led many investors to overlook collateralized loan obligations (CLOs). However, late-cycle CLOs have historically benefitted from tight borrowing spreads and an opportunity to invest in higher-yielding assets. CLOs have demonstrated their resiliency as an investment class over several credit cycles, with low realized principal losses for CLO debt and robust returns for CLO equity. For long-term investors, CLOs can offer an attractive, front-end-loaded return profile that may complement longer-lockup alternative investments with back-end return profiles.

But investors need to understand the key structural features of these complex instruments, which provide limited liquidity, contain high levels of embedded leverage and lead to a wide range of return outcomes. As the volatility experienced by CLOs in the financial crisis showed, long-term investors should conduct a comprehensive assessment of credit risk, structural risk, manager capability and market risk, and have the ability to integrate these elements into a unified framework.

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The Author

Giang Bui

Portfolio Manager, Securitized Debt

Harin de Silva

Portfolio Manager, Special Situations

Kristofer Kraus

Portfolio Manager

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Disclosures

Past performance is not a guarantee or a reliable indicator of future results. All investments contain risk and may lose value. Collateralized Loan Obligations (CLOs) may involve a high degree of risk and are intended for sale to qualified investors only. Investors may lose some or all of the investment and there may be periods where no cash flow distributions are received. CLOs are exposed to risks such as credit, default, liquidity, management, volatility, interest rate and credit risk. Investing in the bond market is subject to risks, including market, interest rate, issuer, credit, inflation risk, and liquidity risk. The value of most bonds and bond strategies are impacted by changes in interest rates. Bank loans are often less liquid than other types of debt instruments and general market and financial conditions may affect the prepayment of bank loans, as such the prepayments cannot be predicted with accuracy. There is no assurance that the liquidation of any collateral from a secured bank loan would satisfy the borrower’s obligation, or that such collateral could be liquidated. Corporate debt securities are subject to the risk of the issuer’s inability to meet principal and interest payments on the obligation and may also be subject to price volatility due to factors such as interest rate sensitivity, market perception of the creditworthiness of the issuer and general market liquidity. Equities may decline in value due to both real and perceived general market, economic and industry conditions. High yield, lower-rated securities involve greater risk than higher-rated securities; portfolios that invest in them may be subject to greater levels of credit and liquidity risk than portfolios that do not. Derivatives may involve certain costs and risks, such as liquidity, interest rate, market, credit, management and the risk that a position could not be closed when most advantageous. Investing in derivatives could lose more than the amount invested. 

Hypothetical and simulated examples have many inherent limitations and are generally prepared with the benefit of hindsight. There are frequently sharp differences between simulated results and the actual results. There are numerous factors related to the markets in general or the implementation of any specific investment strategy, which cannot be fully accounted for in the preparation of simulated results and all of which can adversely affect actual results. No guarantee is being made that the stated results will be achieved.

Statements concerning financial market trends are based on current market conditions, which will fluctuate. Forecasts, estimates and certain information contained herein are based upon proprietary research and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. There is no guarantee that these investment strategies will work under all market conditions or are suitable for all investors and each investor should evaluate their ability to invest long-term, especially during periods of downturn in the market. No representation is being made that any account, product, or strategy will or is likely to achieve profits, losses, or results similar to those shown.

This material contains the opinions of the manager and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material has been distributed for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. PIMCO is a trademark of Allianz Asset Management of America L.P. in the United States and throughout the world. ©2017, PIMCO.