LIBOR: meaning, history and more

What is LIBOR?

LIBOR, or the London Interbank Offered Rate, is a benchmark interest rate used globally to determine the cost of borrowing for a variety of financial products, such as mortgages, loans, and derivatives.

However, due to recent scandals and the decreasing reliability of the rate, LIBOR is been phased out and replaced with alternative reference rates.

This article will explore the history, meaning, and implications of LIBOR, as well as the transition to new reference rates.

The history of LIBOR and its role in the global financial system

LIBOR, or the London Interbank Offered Rate, was first introduced in the 1980s as a benchmark interest rate to determine the cost of borrowing between banks. It quickly became widely used in the financial industry as a reference rate for a range of financial products, including mortgages, loans, and derivatives.

The rate is determined by a daily survey of a group of banks, who report the interest rate at which they would lend to other banks for various periods, ranging from overnight to one year. The rates reported by the banks are then averaged to determine the LIBOR rate for each currency and maturity.

LIBOR has become an important benchmark for global financial markets, as it is used to set interest rates for trillions of dollars in financial products. It is used as a reference rate for loans and mortgages, as well as for derivatives such as interest rate swaps and futures contracts.

However, in recent years, concerns have arisen about the accuracy and reliability of LIBOR. In 2012, it was revealed that some banks had been manipulating the rate to benefit their trading positions, leading to fines and legal action against several banks.

How LIBOR is calculated and its impact on borrowing costs

As mentioned, LIBOR is calculated based on the average interest rate at which a group of banks would lend to other banks for various periods. The rate is published daily for five currencies (USD, EUR, GBP, JPY, and CHF) and seven different maturities (ranging from overnight to one year).

The rate is used as a benchmark for a wide range of financial products, including mortgages, loans, and derivatives. Borrowers who are linked to LIBOR typically pay a fixed percentage above the LIBOR rate, which is known as the spread. For example, a borrower may have a mortgage with a rate of LIBOR plus 1%, which means that their interest rate will be equal to the LIBOR rate plus an additional 1%.

The impact of LIBOR on borrowing costs can be significant, as changes in the rate can lead to changes in the interest rate paid by borrowers. For example, if LIBOR increases, borrowers linked to the rate will see their interest rates increase, leading to higher borrowing costs. On the other hand, if LIBOR decreases, borrowers may see their interest rates decrease, resulting in lower borrowing costs.

However, concerns about the accuracy and reliability of LIBOR have led to a move to transition to alternative reference rates, such as the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) in the United States and the Sterling Overnight Index Average (SONIA) in the United Kingdom. These rates are designed to be more robust and reliable and are based on actual transactions rather than bank estimates.

Recent scandals and the decreasing reliability of LIBOR

In the wake of the 2012 LIBOR scandal, several investigations were launched into the manipulation of the rate by some of the world’s largest banks. These investigations led to significant fines and legal action against several banks, as well as a loss of confidence in the accuracy and reliability of LIBOR.

In response to these concerns, regulators and industry groups have been working to reform the rate and improve its reliability. However, despite these efforts, there have continued to be concerned about the potential for manipulation and inaccuracies in the rate.

As a result, many banks and financial institutions have begun to transition to alternative reference rates, such as SOFR and SONIA, which are based on more robust and reliable data sources. This transition is expected to accelerate in the coming years, as regulators and industry groups work to phase out LIBOR entirely.

The transition to alternative reference rates and its potential impact on the financial industry

The transition to alternative reference rates is expected to have a significant impact on the financial industry, as borrowers and investors adjust to the new rates and the changes in borrowing costs and investment returns that may result.

One potential impact of the transition is that it could lead to changes in the pricing of financial products, as the new reference rates may be lower or higher than LIBOR, depending on market conditions. For example, if the new rates are lower than LIBOR, borrowers may see their borrowing costs decrease, while investors may see lower returns on their investments. On the other hand, if the new rates are higher than LIBOR, borrowers may see their borrowing costs increase, while investors may see higher returns.

Another potential impact of the transition is that it could lead to changes in the valuation and risk management of financial products, particularly for derivatives that are linked to interest rates. The transition may require changes in the models and systems used to value and manage these products, which could have implications for the pricing and risk management of these products.

The transition to alternative reference rates is expected to be a complex and challenging process for the financial industry, as it involves significant changes to the infrastructure and systems used to manage financial products. However, it is also seen as an important step towards improving the accuracy and reliability of reference rates, which is critical for maintaining the integrity and stability of global financial markets.

The potential impact of the end of LIBOR on global financial markets

The end of LIBOR is expected to have significant implications for global financial markets, as LIBOR is widely used as a benchmark for a wide range of financial products, including loans, bonds, and derivatives. The transition to alternative reference rates is likely to cause significant disruptions in these markets, as market participants adjust to the new rates and the changes in pricing and risk management that may result.

One potential risk is that the transition could lead to market volatility and increased uncertainty, particularly if market participants are slow to adopt the new rates or if there are differences in the pricing of financial products across different markets. However, regulators and industry groups are working to minimize these risks by providing guidance and support for the transition, and by encouraging market participants to prepare early and effectively for the end of LIBOR.

Conclusion 

LIBOR has been a key benchmark for global financial markets for several decades, but its reliability has been called into question in recent years. As a result, the financial industry is transitioning to alternative reference rates, which is expected to have significant implications for the industry and global markets.

However, this transition is also seen as an important step toward improving the integrity and stability of global financial markets.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are there other substitutes to LIBOR in Nigeria?

Yes, the Naira interbank offered rate or NIBOR is a united substitute to LIBOR.

Can Parties agree on a foreign agreed rate other than LIBOR?

Yes, however, LIBOR is most accepted when dealing with various Parties from numerous jurisdictions.

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Richard Okoroafor

Richard Okoroafor

Richard is a brilliant legal content writer who doubles as a finance lawyer. He brings his wealth of legal knowledge in corporate commercial transactions to bear, offering the best value that exceeds expectations.

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