What it is:
Accretion is growth, typically in earnings, usually after an acquisition or other significant event. In the bond world, accretion refers to the capital gains earned on a bond purchased at a discount.
How it works/Example:
Let's assume Company XYZ decides to buy Company ABC. Company XYZ's earnings per share before the acquisition are $0.15. Due to the acquisition, its earnings per share shoot up to $0.25, which makes the acquisition accretive to earnings by $0.10 per share.
In the bond world, let's assume that Jane Doe buys a 10-year bond issued by IBM. The bond has a face value of $1,000, but Jane buys it at a discount and pays $900. Over the next 10 years, Jane will see $100 of accretion on her bond ($1,000 - $900). Even though Jane doesn't actually receive the $100 until the bond matures, she must pay taxes on the accretion as it occurs over the 10 years.
Why it matters:
Accretion is a good thing for companies because it adds to the bottom line and thus increases shareholder value, which is the goal of every company. Of course, not all acquisitions turn out to be accretive, despite all the forecasts saying so. Accordingly, the manner in which an acquirer integrates a target into its operations, as well as the quality of the strategic fit between the two entities, are both key to ensuring that the expected gains materialize.
Any bond purchased at a discount accretes, and knowing to anticipate and calculate this accretion can make a big difference in an investor's tax situation.