Contingent convertibles and their impacts on the optimization of the capital structure of Brazilian banks under Basel III

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Banks around the world maintain excess regulatory capital, whether to minimize capitalization costs or to mitigate risks of financial difficulties. However, it was only after the financial crisis of 2008 that the quality of capital gained greater importance among international regulators, through the Third Basel Accord (Basel III), which suggested a capital structure formed of the new equity and debt hybrid instruments, that is, Contingent Convertibles (CoCos), which have the main goal of recapitalizing banks automatically when they show signs of financial difficulties. Using the continuous-time structural model developed by Koziol and Lawrenz (2012), with December 2013 as a reference, this paper analyzes the capital structure of the 10 biggest Brazilian banks in terms of total assets, comparing their current structures - with only subordinated debts - with the structure proposed in Basel III, composed solely of contingent convertibles, with a view to verifying the influence of CoCos in banks' risks and evaluating the effectiveness of this Basel III recommendation. Through the evidence obtained using the model mentioned, this paper's main contribution is in demonstrating that the use of CoCos would optimize the capital structure of banks under the restrictions of Basel III, considering these are effective. If not, the automatic recapitalization of these instruments could be used for shareholders' own benefit, thus increasing the likelihood of banks experiencing financial difficulties, which could cause a new financial crisis, like that which occurred in 2008.

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