Definition: Commercial paper

External debt - IMF

Commercial paper (CP) is an unsecured promise to pay a certain amount on a stated maturity date, issued in bearer form. CP enables corporations to raise short-term funds directly from end investors through their own in-house CP sales team or via arranged placing through bank dealers. Short-term in nature, with maturities ranging from overnight to one year, CP is usually sold at a discount. A coupon is paid in a few markets. Typically, issue size ranges from $100,000 up to about $1 billion. In bypassing financial intermediaries in the short-term money markets, CP can offer a cheaper form of financing to corporations. But because of its unsecured nature, the credit quality of the issuer is important for the investor. Companies with a poor credit rating can obtain a higher rating for the issue by approaching their bank or insurance company for a third-party guarantee, or perhaps issue CP under a MOF (Multiple Option Facility), which provides a backup line of credit should the issue be unsuccessful.
Source:
International Monetary Fund (IMF), "External Debt Statistics: Guide for Compilers and Users; Appendix I. Specific Financial Instruments and Transactions: Classifications", Washington D.C., 2003
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