SOUTH KOREAN investors in a derivative product tied to German sovereign bonds lost 98.1% of their principal, highlighting the danger of super-risky assets sold to individuals that regulators are now probing.

The product, whose value was linked to the German 10-year government note yield, caused such big losses because the yield on the benchmark fell sharply to around minus 0.6%, according to Woori Bank, which sold it. About 8 billion won ($6.7 million) of the four-month securities matured on Thursday. There was 127 billion won of such securities tied to German rates that were outstanding as of Aug. 7, according to the Financial Supervisory Service.

A Woori Bank spokesperson contacted by Bloomberg referred to a Sept. 23 statement, saying the firm will actively seek ways to protect their customers in dispute reconciliation.

The FSS is investigating whether enough information was provided to investors when such products tied to overseas rates were sold, and whether they had design flaws. Individual investors seeking higher returns as interest rates fell in Korea were the predominant buyers of those securities: they made up 89.1% of the about 822 billion won of overseas rate-linked products outstanding as of Aug. 7, the financial regulator said last month.

While the products have different terms, a typical one tied to German rates offer a return of 2% on six-month securities if the 10-year yield is minus 0.25% or higher, but if it falls below that level, investors lose 2.5% of their principal every time the yield drops one basis point, according to the FSS. — Bloomberg