Arbitrage Funds: Benefits and Who should invest in these Funds

An investor education & awareness initiative.

Let us first understand the concept of arbitrage.

  1. You notice that a mobile phone online costs Rs. 50,000
  2. A colleague of yours plans to buy the same phone from a retail store for Rs. 55,000. 
  3. Seeing the opportunity for a risk-free profit you purchase the phone online for Rs. 50,000 and then simultaneously sell it to your colleague for Rs. 55,000.
  4. This was an arbitrage profit of Rs. 5,000. 
Simply, arbitrage implies taking advantage, of a difference in price of the same asset in two different markets, at the same time. This enables one to buy at a cheaper price and sell the same at a higher price, resulting in a "risk-free" profit.

Arbitrage mutual funds earn profits through the simultaneous purchase and sale of securities on two different exchanges. The spot-cash market and the futures market.

The spot-cash market is where a stock can be bought or sold at the current price. While the futures market, as the name would suggest, lets you buy or sell a stock at a pre-determined, future price.

The difference between the spot price and the futures price creates arbitrage opportunities.

Let’s look at an example:

  1. Stock A is trading at Rs.200 today. This is the spot price. (Therefore, Stock A can be bought OR sold today for Rs. 200.)
  2. In the Futures market, the same Stock A is trading at a 1-month futures price of Rs. 201. Therefore, Stock A can be purchased OR sold after 1 month for Rs. 201.

The Arbitrage Fund would simultaneously make two transactions. To BUY…. where the price is cheaper. And SELL... where it is higher.

In our example:

  1. BUY Stock A in the Spot market at Rs. 200 
  2. AND, simultaneously, SELL Stock A at a 1-month future price of Rs. 201

Effectively, locking in a Rs. 1 arbitrage profit, over a period of 1 month, with an investment of Rs. 200.

Now, irrespective of the price of Stock A after 1-month, your profit is locked-in. Whether the price of Stock A rises to 250 or drops to 150. You will earn a profit of Rs. 1.

The benefits of arbitrage mutual funds are as follows:

Moderately Low Risk
One of the benefits of arbitrage funds is that they are moderately low risk. Because each security is bought and sold simultaneously, there is virtually no counterparty risk. The clearinghouse guarantees that the futures contract will be honored therefore eliminating counterparty risk.

Interest return
The clearinghouse takes some percentage of the portfolio as fixed deposit to give this guarantee. Thus, generating an interest return for the investor.

The returns generated from an arbitrage fund may be comparable to those accrued by short-term debt.

Arbitrage funds benefit from equity taxation. This means that long-term capital gains (obtained after holding such a fund for at least 12 months) exceeding Rs 1 lakh are taxed at 10%, while short-term capital gains are taxed at 15%. In contrast, all short term capital gains on other than Equity -oriented funds are taxed according to the investor’s income tax bracket. The long term capital Gains are taxed at 20% with indexation in case of funds whose domestic equity exposure exceeds 35% but does not exceeds 65%.

Thus, for investors whose income falls under a higher tax bracket, arbitrage funds have the potential to generate better post-tax returns than non equity-oriented funds, especially when used to park money.

The time horizon for investing in arbitrage funds should be at least 3 months.

To learn more about how you can best take advantage of arbitrage funds, contact your investment advisor.

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Key Takeaways

  • Due to investor sentiment, the price of the same security may differ between markets.
  • Arbitrage can help you capitalize on this dual pricing opportunity.
  • Arbitrage funds undertake arbitrage trading between cash and futures or between two stock exchanges (S&P BSE and NSE) to make profits.
  • These funds are considered to be low risk since they don’t hold stock.
  • Even though arbitrage funds are comparable to debt funds in terms of safety, they are treated as equity funds for taxation purposes.
  • If you are looking for safety in your investments and, at the same time, want to invest in securities beyond debt, arbitrage funds are for you.
  • Arbitrage funds do well when stock markets are volatile.
  • When choosing a suitable arbitrage fund in which to invest, select a fund that has a decent corpus size, low expense ratio and experienced fund manager.

Disclaimer: All Mutual Fund investors have to go through a one-time KYC (Know Your Customer) process. Investors should deal only with Registered Mutual Funds (‘RMF’). For more info on KYC, RMF & procedure to lodge/redress complaints, visit This is an investor education & awareness initiative by DSP Mutual Fund.