Three reasons to allocate to European High Yield

Three reasons to allocate to European High Yield

From an evolving market to higher yields with modest default rates, here's why you should consider European High Yield.

Reason #1 The market has evolved and hosts blue chip companies

Since Columbia Threadneedle Investments launched its first high yield bond fund in 1999 the market has transitioned from a marginal asset class of low quality and small issuers to one with depth and breadth that is home to blue-chip companies such as Ford1, Rolls Royce, IAG (British Airways owner) and Telecom Italia2.

Since 1999, the European high yield universe has increased in market value by more than 20 times, with the number of issuers increasing by more than five times. In 2000 the market contained 11 sectors, with telecommunications and media making up 50% of the space. Now it has 18 sectors (the same 18 as the investment grade market) with, incidentally, telecommunications and media now only an 18% weighting3.

This more developed market gives us a greater number of issuers for credit selection opportunities which, alongside issuers offering a wider range of maturities, gives us more scope for curve trades. The more diversified sector composition provides us, as an active asset manager, more freedom to make the most of both tactical and thematic sector tailwinds.

Reason #2 Higher yields with a modest default outlook

At the time of writing4, the European high yield market offers a 6.9% yield to maturity – an attractive total return prospect for a fixed income asset class. In the context of equity returns, the Euro Stoxx 50 has delivered a 3.0% annualised return since 2000 and a 6.8% annualised return since 20105.

Despite the prospect of defaults within the asset class, our high yield desk forecast expects modest default levels – a cumulative rate of 3.9% from October 2023 to October 2025, or 1.9% annualised. This compares with the long-run average European high yield default rate at 2.7% a year6.

Reason #3 History is on your side

Over the long run the euro high yield market has outperformed its European peers (see Figure 1). Since January 2001, the high yield market index return has almost tripled, in absolute terms.

Figure 1: European high yield outperformance
Figure 1 European high yield outperformance

Source: Columbia Threadneedle Investments and BofA indices as at 30 November 2023. The return index starts in January 2001 which is the furthest all back five indices go. 

We believe that for a long-term investor, European high yield offers an attractive return. Figure 2 illustrates every five-year holding period of the market going back to 2000 (all 228 of them). During this time, the market delivered a median five-year cumulative return of 32.7% and a negative return on only nine out of the 228 holding periods.

Figure 2: European high yield five-year returns
Figure 2: European high yield five-year returns

Source: Columbia Threadneedle Investments as at 30 November 2023. Each bar denotes the cumulative return of a five-year holding period. Returns are denominated in EUR

Despite the impressive returns offered to a long-term investor, market returns can still be adversely affected by rising defaults during times of market stress. Being cognisant of this, at Columbia Threadneedle our investment process focusses on the avoidance of permanent capital loss. This is achieved through our focus on risk management and research intensity, which is afforded by our well-resourced analyst team.

In summary, in the long run the European high yield market has outperformed the aforementioned competing asset classes while consistently delivering over a five-year time horizon.

9 January 2024
Jake Lunness
Client Portfolio Analyst, High Yield and Emerging Market Debt
Share article
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Key topics
Related topics
Listen on stitcher badge reasons to allocate to European High Yield.pdf?inline=true
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Key topics
Related topics


Three reasons to allocate to European High Yield

1 Ford is a rising star and left the market following an upgrade by S&P to investment grade on 30 November 2023

2 Mention of specific stocks is not a recommendation

3 Columbia Threadneedle Investments analysis, 2023

4 3 January 2024

5 All figures Bloomberg, as at 3 January 2024

6 Figures based on the Deutsche bank five-year average cumulative default rate at 14.4% annualised to 2.7% per annum, as at 8 December 2023

Related Insights

9 July 2024

Laura Reardon

Client Portfolio Manager, Emerging Market Debt

Dispelling the myths around emerging market debt

Emerging markets today bear little resemblance to those rocked by financial crises in the 1980s and 1990s, with the asset class diversified across geography, investment grade, high yield, sovereigns and corporates
Read time - 3 min
8 July 2024

Christopher Hult

Portfolio Manager, Fixed income

Paul Smillie

Senior Credit Analyst, Investment Grade

EMEA Investment grade outlook, H2 2024

Inflation is finally coming down, central banks are poised to cut rates, and credit spreads have withstood volatility in government bonds. So where do we see things going from here?
Read time - 1 min
8 July 2024

Alasdair Ross

Head of Investment Grade Credit, EMEA

Investment grade: attractive yields with lower risk profile

The asset class is in a fundamentally good place, with the past few years seeing index yields rise to 5.5% – competing quite well with asset classes such as equities.
Watch time - 6 min

Important Information

For use by professional clients and/or equivalent investor types in your jurisdiction (not to be used with or passed on to retail clients). For marketing purposes.


This document is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered representative of any particular investment. This should not be considered an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments, or to provide investment advice or services. Investing involves risk including the risk of loss of principal. Your capital is at risk. Market risk may affect a single issuer, sector of the economy, industry or the market as a whole. The value of investments is not guaranteed, and therefore an investor may not get back the amount invested. International investing involves certain risks and volatility due to potential political, economic or currency fluctuations and different financial and accounting standards. The securities included herein are for illustrative purposes only, subject to change and should not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell. Securities discussed may or may not prove profitable. The views expressed are as of the date given, may change as market or other conditions change and may differ from views expressed by other Columbia Threadneedle Investments (Columbia Threadneedle) associates or affiliates. Actual investments or investment decisions made by Columbia Threadneedle and its affiliates, whether for its own account or on behalf of clients, may not necessarily reflect the views expressed. This information is not intended to provide investment advice and does not take into consideration individual investor circumstances. Investment decisions should always be made based on an investor’s specific financial needs, objectives, goals, time horizon and risk tolerance. Asset classes described may not be suitable for all investors. Past performance does not guarantee future results, and no forecast should be considered a guarantee either. Information and opinions provided by third parties have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. This document and its contents have not been reviewed by any regulatory authority.


In Australia: Issued by Threadneedle Investments Singapore (Pte.) Limited [“TIS”], ARBN 600 027 414. TIS is exempt from the requirement to hold an Australian financial services licence under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) and relies on Class Order 03/1102 in respect of the financial services it provides to wholesale clients in Australia. This document should only be distributed in Australia to “wholesale clients” as defined in Section 761G of the Corporations Act. TIS is regulated in Singapore (Registration number: 201101559W) by the Monetary Authority of Singapore under the Securities and Futures Act (Chapter 289), which differ from Australian laws.


In Singapore: Issued by Threadneedle Investments Singapore (Pte.) Limited, 3 Killiney Road, #07-07, Winsland House 1, Singapore 239519, which is regulated in Singapore by the Monetary Authority of Singapore under the Securities and Futures Act (Chapter 289). Registration number: 201101559W. This advertisement has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.


In Hong Kong: Issued by Threadneedle Portfolio Services Hong Kong Limited 天利投資管理香港有限公司. Unit 3004, Two Exchange Square, 8 Connaught Place, Hong Kong, which is licensed by the Securities and Futures Commission (“SFC”) to conduct Type 1 regulated activities (CE:AQA779). Registered in Hong Kong under the Companies Ordinance (Chapter 622), No. 1173058.


In Japan: Issued by Columbia Threadneedle Investments Japan Co., Ltd. Financial Instruments Business Operator, The Director-General of Kanto Local Finance Bureau (FIBO) No.3281, and a member of Japan Investment Advisers Association and Type II Financial Instruments Firms Association.


In the UK: Issued by Threadneedle Asset Management Limited, No. 573204 and/or Columbia Threadneedle Management Limited, No. 517895, both registered in England and Wales and authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.


In the EEA: Issued by Threadneedle Management Luxembourg S.A., registered with the Registre de Commerce et des Sociétés (Luxembourg), No. B 110242 and/or Columbia Threadneedle Netherlands B.V., regulated by the Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM), registered No. 08068841.


In Switzerland: Issued by Threadneedle Portfolio Services AG, an unregulated Swiss firm or Columbia Threadneedle Management (Swiss) GmbH, acting as representative office of Columbia Threadneedle Management Limited, authorised and regulated by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA).


In the Middle East: This document is distributed by Columbia Threadneedle Investments (ME) Limited, which is regulated by the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA). For Distributors: This document is intended to provide distributors with information about Group products and services and is not for further distribution. For Institutional Clients: The information in this document is not intended as financial advice and is only intended for persons with appropriate investment knowledge and who meet the regulatory criteria to be classified as a Professional Client or Market Counterparties and no other Person should act upon it.


Columbia Threadneedle Investments is the global brand name of the Columbia and Threadneedle group of companies.

For professional investors in EMEA APAC only

Legal and regulatory disclosures

The analysis included on this website is for professional investors in EMEA APAC. This material should not be considered as an offer, solicitation, advice or an investment recommendation. This communication is valid at the date of publication and may be subject to change without notice. Any opinions expressed are made as at the date of publication but are subject to change without notice and should not be seen as investment advice. Information obtained from external sources is believed to be reliable but its accuracy or completeness cannot be guaranteed. 

I have read and accept the terms and conditions of this site:

Thank you. You can now visit your preference centre to choose which insights you would like to receive by email.

To view and control which insights you receive from us by email, please visit your preference centre.

Woman listens to music through headphones
Play Video

CT Property Trust- Fund Manager Update

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium