Oldest active bond
Hoogheemraadschap Lekdijk Bovendams
394 year(s)
Netherlands (Utrecht)

The oldest bond that is still paying interest is one issued in 1624 by the Hoogheemraadschap Lekdijk Bovendams (NLD) to fund repairs to flood defences on the Lek river, south of Utrecht. The holder is entitled to annual interest payments of 2.5% of the principal (which was 1,200 Dutch guilders). Due to the effects of 394 years of inflation and currency changes (as of 2018), the bond only pays out about €15 ($16; £13) per year.

When a company issues a bond, it is selling a token of its indebtedness to the purchaser (or holder) of the bond. The purchaser can keep it, collecting repayments and interest, or they can sell it on to someone else (who will then receive the payments). Bonds are negotiable financial instruments that can be resold an unlimited number of times.

Most bonds have a maturity date, by which time the issuer has to pay off the principal (the original value of the bond). The 1624 bond, however, is what's known as a perpetual bond; it entitles the holder to interest payments every year, only ending if the issuer defaults on their debts.

Though the Hoogheemraadschap Lekdijk Bovendams no longer exists, its assets and liabilities (including those specified in the 1624 bond) were passed on to its successor organizations, and are today managed by the Hoogheemraadschap De Stichtse Rijnlanden (created in 1994), which is responsible for the flood defences around Utrecht (including the dykes on the Lek).

The bond's original purchaser was a Dutch woman called Ellsjen Jorisdochter. The bond was passed down through the generations. In 1938, one of Jorisdochter's descendants reportedly presented the bond to the New York Stock Exchange, which still owns it today.