Equity Swap Contract

Refers to a deal between two parties enforcing the exchange of future equity-based cash flows between the respective parties.

Author: David Bickerton
David Bickerton
David Bickerton
Asset Management | Financial Analysis

Previously a Portfolio Manager for MDH Investment Management, David has been with the firm for nearly a decade, serving as President since 2015. He has extensive experience in wealth management, investments and portfolio management.

David holds a BS from Miami University in Finance.

Reviewed By: Andy Yan
Andy Yan
Andy Yan
Investment Banking | Corporate Development

Before deciding to pursue his MBA, Andy previously spent two years at Credit Suisse in Investment Banking, primarily working on M&A and IPO transactions. Prior to joining Credit Suisse, Andy was a Business Analyst Intern for Capital One and worked as an associate for Cambridge Realty Capital Companies.

Andy graduated from University of Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and is currently an MBA candidate at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business with a concentration in Analytical Finance.

Last Updated:November 5, 2023

What is an Equity Swap Contract?

An equity swap contract is a deal between two parties enforcing the exchange of future equity-based cash flows between the respective parties. This leads to, among other things, each investor having a more diversified portfolio.

The contract is exercised, or the exchange is made on fixed schedules. Equity swaps deal with the exchange of cash flows rather than a principal amount, like in currency swaps.

In swaps, we use the term leg to refer to the side of the contract one party agrees to receive in exchange for the other leg, i.e., for what the other party is offering.

Cash flows exchanged between the two parties are:

  1. Cash flows or payments are based on an index or interest rate like, for example, LIBOR.
  2. Variable cash flows depend on the performance of the underlying equity or stock.

Notice that the exchange is between a fixed, i.e., constant cash flow, and a variable cash flow, indicating the difference between risk factors and returns. 

Equity swap contracts are flexible and can be manipulated according to the party’s needs and requirements. This allows investors to choose the appropriate exposure to given equity, effectively hedging their investments and possibly providing tax benefits.

These swaps are similar to interest rate swaps. The key difference is that one side is the return of an equity index or variable rate rather than a fixed rate, usually conducted between investment banks, hedge funds, lenders, etc.

Advantages of Equity Swap Contracts

Equity swap contracts have multiple benefits for both parties involved, including:

1. Diversification:

Equity swap contracts give exposure to multiple assets, diversifying the portfolios of both parties. 

2. Hedging:

Imagine an investor exposed to a particular stock, betting on it performing well in the long run. However, he believes it will temporarily perform badly in the short-term due to market conditions. 

Instead of holding it, he can hedge the investment via equity swaps, mitigating possible losses without selling the underlying stock itself.

3. Taxes:

Equity swaps provide tax benefits for both parties, including zero transaction fees for the trades done within the contract, making it a solid alternative to investing directly in the public markets.

Equity swap contracts are used by all financial institutions like hedge funds, investment banks, etc. Equity swaps also allow investors to invest in securities that are not available publicly or to investors. They do this by aligning the contracts to exhibit or relate to the underlying stock’s returns.

Example Of Equity Swap Contract

Let us take an example where we deal with two parties, Firm A and Firm B, each offering an equity swap deal.

Firm A wants returns of a given stock, say “X,” without buying stock X. He, therefore, offers a deal where he would receive returns based on stock X’s performance. In exchange for the contract, he’ll make payments to Firm B.

Firm B owns stock X but is not sure about the short-term volatility of the stock and wants to keep it for the long term.

Firms A and B accept the equity swap contract. Firm A will offer payments based on the LIBOR index in return for stock X’s profits. 

This lets Firm B hedge its position with something less risky without selling the underlying stock. Doing this saves transaction fees for both Firm A and B. This swap will be exercised by exchanging future cash flows.

Here, one leg is the returns of stock X, and the other is the payments based on the LIBOR index. Both parties agree on a notional principal amount of Y million dollars, depending on their requirements, i.e., how much of the underlying asset they want to swap.

Equity Swap Contract FAQs

Researched and Authored by Abhijeet Avhale | LinkedIn

Reviewed and edited by James Fazeli-Sinaki | LinkedIn

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