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Treasury Bills in Nigeria: Everything You Need To Know

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This article answers important questions on how to invest in treasury bills.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Treasury bills are government-backed and are very safe
  • T-Bills do not have regular interest payments like bonds 
  • They can be purchased through a broker, banks, or the CBN
  • They have a maximum maturity of 1 year.

What are Treasury Bills?

Treasury Bills, also known as T-Bills, are government-backed, short-term securities issued by the CBN. They are issued when the government needs to borrow funds for a period of time. They have a maximum maturity of 364 days. T-Bills are sold at a discount from their face value. Although similar to a short-term bond, t-bills are different and offer low yields compared to high-risk investments.

Short-term bonds are bonds that mature in one to four years.

How do treasury bills work?

Treasury Bills are sold through a bi-weekly auction by the CBN. Buyers quote bids and the average minimum bid is selected. The Government sells these bills at a lower price (lower than face value). Next, the investor holds on to the T-Bills until the maturity date, and eventually, is paid the full price of the face value.

Face value (or par value) is a financial term for the value of a security, as stated by its issuer.

Here’s an example: If an investor decides to buy a T-Bill for N100,000 with a discount rate of 10%, the investor will only pay N90,000 and will be paid the face value of N100,000 at the maturity date. Basically, treasury bills interest is difference between the face value and the discounted sales price. Also, unlike bonds, there are no interest payments during the investment period. 

How can I buy treasury bills?

You can buy treasury bills from dealers or brokers licensed by the CBN or through banks’ treasury bill mobile apps. 

What is the minimum amount I can buy?

The minimum amount you can invest in t-bills is ₦50 million. However, if you don’t have up to that, you can invest with some commercial banks for as low as N100,000. Banks pool money from their customers to meet or exceed the N50 million required and invest into a portfolio on their behalf. The interest is shared equally among investors based on their individual investments.

For example, if you invested N100,000 in a pool that invested in a 364-day t-bill that pays a 10% interest rate, the bank will pay you N10,000 as your gross interest earned. If your friend invested in the same pool but invested N2 million, your friend will get N200,000.

Factors that affect treasury bill prices

1. Maturity

The maturity period of a T-bill plays an important role in its price. A bill of one year will yield more profit than that of three months. Hence, investors have a higher rate of return to compensate for locking up their money for a longer time.

2. Risk

Investors’ risk appetite also influences the price of a T-bill. T-bills are less appealing and will be priced lower when the economy expands, and other debt securities provide a higher return. On the other hand, when the markets and the economy are unstable, and other debt assets are perceived as riskier, T-bills command a higher price due to their lower risk.

3. Inflation

The current rate of inflation may also have an impact on the cost of T-bills. For instance, it would be uneconomical to invest in T-bills if the inflation rate was 5% and the T-bill discount rate was 3% because the real rate of return would be negative. As a result, there will be less market for T-bills, which will result in lower prices.

Learn more about what to invest in during a recession

When is the interest on treasury bills usually paid?

The interest on t-bills is paid on the same day you begin the investment. For example, if you purchase a N200,000 T-bill with an interest rate (or discount rate) of 10%, the CBN debits your account with N180,000 – as such your N20,000 interest is paid upfront. And upon maturity, you are paid the face value N200,000.

Can I sell treasury bills before maturity?

Yes. You can sell Treasury Bills before maturity through the OTC market.

Over-the-counter (OTC) is the trading of securities through a broker instead of a major exchange.

Can I rollover / re-invest my treasury bill upon maturity?

The CBN does not rollover your t-bills automatically. However, you can do so by contacting the bank through which you made the investment and asking them to reinvest once it is paid.

Benefits of treasury bills

  • T-bills are relatively low-risk and suitable if you want to stash your money somewhere for a brief period. 
  • Repayment is certain upon maturity. 
  • T-bills can be a steady source of income.
  • They are also a good means of saving money.
  • T-bills are very liquid and easily converted to cash.
  • They can be used as collateral.

Con of treasury bills

They offer low returns. So if an investor is looking for higher rewards, T-Bills are not a great option.

Are treasury bills taxable?

Yes. Treasury bills are now taxable. In December 2011, the Federal Government of Nigeria issued tax exemption orders on the interests earned from short-term securities such as t-bills. The order took effect from January 2, 2012 and was to be effective for 10 years. Consequently, this 10-year period has expired and the interest on these securities are no longer tax-exempt.

Are treasury bills safe?

Yes. Treasury Bills are one of the safest debt securities backed by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

How are T-bills different from treasury bonds?

Treasury Bills maturities are between 91 days to 1 year while Treasury bonds have maturities of up to 20 years. Another difference is that with T-Bills, investors do not receive regular interest payments, but for Bonds investors can receive payments every six months.

Bottom line

The Government sells t-bills at a discounted price from their face value and pays the full price upon maturity. T-Bills don’t incur regular interest payments because their lifespan is too short. Also, the longer the maturity date, the higher the ROI. T-bills are considered one of the safest investments available and have the full backing of the Government. Interested investors can purchase Treasury bills through a stockbroker, banks, or the CBN.

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