So what is SGS ? SGS stands for Singapore Government Securities and they are marketable debt instruments issued by the Singapore Government. The link for the official website of the SGS can be found here. In other words, the government actually borrows money from you and will promise to return you your capital with some amount of interest after a agreed period of time.
What is so special about SGS as a form of investment ? The special feature about SGS is that it is avirtually risk-free investment. This is because they are backed by the full faith and credit of the Singapore Government. The Singapore Government has consistently run budget surpluses consistently over the years thus it has the ability to pay back debts. Furthermore, SGS are given the highest debt rating by various international rating agencies such as Moody's, Standard and Poor's and Fitch. As compared to fixed deposits, SGS generally gives a higher interest. Furthermore, fixed deposits have a locked-in period whereas you can always sell your SGS for cash on the market after buying them.
SGS are generally dividend into two categories. They are Treasury Bills which are more commonly known in short as T-bills, and Bonds.
Treasury Bills are short-term debts that have a maturity period of one year or less. It is being sold or bought at a discount to their face value which is $100. At the end of the maturity period, the Singapore Government will pay back the face value thus the interest is simply the difference between the purchase price and the face value.
For example, a Treasury Bill is being sold at $99.04 for a face value of $100 which the government will pay back to you at the end of the maturity period thus it is being sold at a discount to the face value. If you bought it at $99.04, at the end of the maturity period, you will receive back $100 and your profit will simply be $100 - $99.04 = $0.96. Thus your yield will be $0.96 / $100 * 100 = 0.96%. As such, the discount is actually the interest of the Treasury Bill.
Currently, the Singapore Government currently issues 3-month and 1 year Treasury Bill although 1 year Treasury Bill has been issued before and the minimum purchase amount is $1000. The 3-month Treasury Bill is being issued every week while the 1 year Treasury Bill is being issued twice a year.
Bonds are longer term debts that have a maturity period of more than one year. During the holding period of the bonds, the Singapore Government will give out the interest which is also known as coupon, twice annually with the payment dates six months apart from each other until the end of the maturity period. This is one of the main difference between Treasury Bills and Bonds. For Treasury Bills, the interest is given in the form of a discount to the face value of the Treasury Bills whereas for Bonds, the interest is given out in the form of coupons.
For example, you bought $1000 worth of a SGS Bond that has a yield which is also known as a coupon rate of 4% on a face value of $100 and it will mature on 1st March 2015. Every year, the total interest you will receive will be 4% * $1000 = $40. Since the coupons is being given out twice a year, you will receive $20 for each coupon payment which are six months apart until 1st March 2015.