FX volatility creates opportunities
| 18-10-2016 | Victor Macrae |
The British pound has strongly decreased in value against other major currencies such as the US dollar and the euro. Such FX movements can negatively impact firms’ financial statements and destroy firm value. On the other hand, they can also create opportunities. I would like to demonstrate this on the basis of a real case of a European based industrial firm which has the euro as functional currency. We’ll discuss two scenarios.
First, some time ago the firm was negotiating a takeover of a British firm. In anticipation of the M&A transaction it purchased British pounds against euros. However, the deal was unexpectedly cancelled. As a result the firm had to sell the pounds again. Luckily, the pound had strengthened against the euro in the meantime and the firm ‘gained’ millions due to the failed acquisition. This could however easily have been a ‘loss’ in case of a weakening of the pound. The ‘no FX strategy’ was in the firm’s favour this time, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
If you are thinking about a takeover in the UK (or any other country where the local currency is under pressure) it is wise to consider multiple FX hedging strategies. For instance, using options for these type of transactions not only provides you with a way out if the acquisition is not closed as an option gives you the right but not the obligation to purchase the FX. Furthermore, when the payment is due it also gives you the opportunity to buy the currency at the option’s strike price or at the lower prevailing market rate if the case.
Second, a characteristic of this industrial firm is that it is very dominant in its core markets. Due to this position, the firm predominantly sells its products in euro, also to customers with a different home currency. While it may seem that there is no FX risk, this strategy has led to currency issues, for instance in the Russian market. Due to the weakening of the Russian rouble against the euro, the firm’s products have become more expensive up to a point where sales in Russia have nearly ceased to exist. Russian customers cannot afford to pay the euro prices and demand pricing in roubles or a discount on the euro price.
This is an example where a firm’s exchange rate policy influences its core business activities. A solution could be to move production to Russia, and possibly to produce for other regions as well, although this has consequences far beyond the FX issue which have to be taken into account.
Both examples show that FX volatility can create opportunities. FX risk management should support the core activities of a firm and not the other way around. But if creative FX management helps create firm value, why not benefit?
Victor Macrae – Owner of Macrae FinanceView expert profile