By reinterpreting the calibration of structural models, a reassessment of the importance of the input variables is undertaken. The analysis shows that volatility is the key parameter to any calibration exercise, by several orders of magnitude. To maximize the sensitivity to volatility, a simple formulation of Merton’s model is proposed that employs deep out-of-the-money option implied volatilities. The methodology also eliminates the use of historic data to specify the default barrier, thereby leading to a full risk-neutral calibration. Subsequently, a new technique for identifying and hedging capital structure arbitrage opportunities is illustrated. The approach seeks to hedge the volatility risk, or vega, as opposed to the exposure from the underlying equity itself, or delta. The results question the efficacy of the common arbitrage strategy of only executing the delta hedge.
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