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To describe the four principal currency translation methods available and to calculate translation exposure using these different methods

To describe the four principal currency translation methods available and to calculate translation exposure using these different methods

CHAPTER 10 Measuring and Managing Translation and Transaction Exposure

The stream of time sweeps away errors, and leaves the truth for the inheritance of humanity.

George Brandes


• To define translation and transaction exposure and distinguish between the two

• To describe the four principal currency translation methods available and to calculate translation exposure using these different methods

• To describe and apply the current (FASB-52) currency translation method prescribed by the Financial Accounting Standards Board

• To identify the basic hedging strategy and techniques used by firms to manage their currency transaction and translation risks

• To explain how a forward market hedge works

• To explain how a money market hedge works

• To describe how foreign currency contract prices should be set to factor in exchange rate change expectations

• To describe how currency risk-sharing arrangements work

• To explain when foreign currency options are the preferred hedging technique

• To describe the costs associated with using the different hedging techniques

• To describe and assess the economic soundness of the various corporate hedging objectives

• To explain the advantages and disadvantages of centralizing foreign exchange risk management


accounting exposure


currency call option

currency collar

currency options

currency put option

currency risk sharing

current exchange rate

current/noncurrent method

current rate method


economic exposure

exposure netting

Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)

foreign exchange risk

forward market hedge

functional currency

funds adjustment

hard currency


historical exchange rate

hyperinflationary country

monetary/nonmonetary method

money market hedge

neutral zone

operating exposure

opportunity cost

price adjustment clause

range forward

reporting currency

risk shifting

soft currency

Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 52 (FASB 52)

Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 133 (FASB 133)

temporal method

transaction exposure

translation exposure

Foreign currency fluctuations are one of the key sources of risk in multinational operations. Consider the case of Dell Inc., which operates assembly plants for its computers within the United States as well as in Ireland, Malaysia, China, and Brazil; runs offices and call centers in several other countries; and markets its products in more than 100 countries. Dells currency problems are evident in the fact that it may manufacture a product in Ireland for sale in, say, Denmark and obtain payments in Danish krone. Dell would like to ensure that its foreign profits are not eroded by currency fluctuations. Also, at the end of the year, when Dell consolidates its financial statements for the year in U.S. dollars, it wants to ensure that exchange rate changes do not adversely impact its financial performance.

The pressure to monitor and manage foreign currency risks has led many companies to develop sophisticated computer-based systems to keep track of their foreign exchange exposure and aid in managing that exposure. The general concept of exposure refers to the degree to which a company is affected by exchange rate changes. This impact can be measured in several ways. As so often happens, economists tend to favor one approach to measuring foreign exchange exposure, whereas accountants favor an alternative approach. This chapter deals with the measurement and management of accounting exposure, including both translation and transaction exposure. Management of accounting exposure centers on the concept of hedging. Hedging a particular currency exposure means establishing an offsetting currency position so that whatever is lost or gained on the original currency exposure is exactly offset by a corresponding foreign exchange gain or loss on the currency hedge. Regardless of what happens to the future exchange rate, therefore, hedging locks in a dollar (home currency) value for the currency exposure. In this way, hedging can protect a firm from foreign exchange risk, which is the risk of valuation changes resulting from unforeseen currency movements.

10.1 Alternative Measures of Foreign Exchange Exposure

The three basic types of exposure are translation exposure, transaction exposure, and operating exposure. Transaction exposure and operating exposure combine to form economic exposure. Exhibit 10.1 illustrates and contrasts translation, transaction, and operating exposure. As can be seen, these exposures cannot always be neatly separated but instead overlap to some extent.

Translation Exposure

Translation exposure, also known as accounting exposure, arises from the need, for purposes of reporting and consolidation, to convert the financial statements of foreign operations from the local currencies (LC) involved to the home currency (HC). If exchange rates have changed since the previous reporting period, this translation, or restatement, of those assets, liabilities, revenues, expenses, gains, and losses that are denominated in foreign currencies will result in foreign exchange gains or losses. The possible extent of these gains or losses is measured by the translation exposure figures. The rules that govern translation are devised by an accounting association such as the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in the United States, the parent firm’s government, or the firm itself. Appendix 10A discusses Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 52 (FASB 52)—the present currency translation method prescribed by FASB.

Exhibit 10.1 Comparison of Translation, Transaction, and Operating Exposures

Transaction Exposure

Transaction exposure results from transactions that give rise to known, contractually binding future foreign-currency-denominated cash inflows or outflows. As exchange rates change between now and when these transactions settle, so does the value of their associated foreign currency cash flows, leading to currency gains and losses. Examples of transaction exposure for a U.S. company would be the account receivable associated with a sale denominated in euros or the obligation to repay a Japanese yen debt. Although transaction exposure is rightly part of economic exposure, it is usually lumped under accounting exposure. In reality, transaction exposure overlaps with both accounting and operating exposure. Some elements of transaction exposure, such as foreign-currency-denominated accounts receivable and debts, are included in a firm’s accounting exposure because they already appear on the firm’s balance sheet. Other elements of transaction exposure, such as foreign currency sales contracts that have been entered into but the goods have not yet been delivered (and so receivables have not yet been created), do not appear on the firm’s current financial statements and instead are part of the firm’s operating exposure.

Operating Exposure

Operating exposure measures the extent to which currency fluctuations can alter a company’s future operating cash flows—that is, its future revenues and costs. Any company whose revenues or costs are affected by currency changes has operating exposure, even if it is a purely domestic corporation and has all its cash flows denominated in home currency.

The two cash-flow exposures—operating exposure and transaction exposure—combine to equal a company’s economic exposure. In technical terms, economic exposure is the extent to which the value of the firm—as measured by the present value of its expected cash flows—will change when exchange rates change.

10.2 Alternative Currency Translation Methods

Companies with international operations will have foreign-currency-denominated assets and liabilities, revenues, and expenses. However, because home country investors and the entire financial community are interested in home currency values, the foreign currency balance sheet accounts and income statement must be assigned HC values. In particular, the financial statements of an MNC’s overseas subsidiaries must be translated from local currency to home currency before consolidation with the parent’s financial statements.

If currency values change, foreign exchange translation gains or losses may result. Assets and liabilities that are translated at the current (postchange) exchange rate are considered to be exposed; those translated at a historical (prechange) exchange rate will maintain their historical HC values and, hence, are regarded as not exposed. Translation exposure is simply the difference between exposed assets and exposed liabilities. The controversies among accountants center on which assets and liabilities are exposed and on when accounting-derived foreign exchange gains and losses should be recognized (reported on the income statement). A crucial point to realize in putting these controversies in perspective is that such gains or losses are of an accounting nature—that is, no cash flows are necessarily involved.

Four principal translation methods are available: the current/noncurrent method, the monetary/nonmonetary method, the temporal method, and the current rate method. In practice, there are also variations of each method.

Current/Noncurrent Method

At one time, the current/noncurrent method, whose underlying theoretical basis is maturity, was used by almost all U.S. multinationals. With this method, all the foreign subsidiary’s current assets and liabilities are translated into home currency at the current exchange rate. Each noncurrent asset or liability is translated at its historical exchange rate—that is, at the rate in efffect at the time the asset was acquired or the liability was incurred. Hence, a foreign subsidiary with positive local currency working capital will give rise to a translation loss (gain) from a devaluation (revaluation) with the current/noncurrent method, and vice versa if working capital is negative.

The income statement is translated at the average exchange rate of the period, except for those revenues and expense items associated with noncurrent assets or liabilities. The latter items, such as depreciation expense, are translated at the same rates as the corresponding balance sheet items. Thus, it is possible to see different revenue and expense items with similar maturities being translated at different rates.

Monetary/Nonmonetary Method

The monetary/nonmonetary method differentiates between monetary assets and liabilities—that is, those items that represent a claim to receive, or an obligation to pay, a fixed amount of foreign currency units—and nonmonetary, or physical, assets and liabilities. Monetary items (e.g., cash, accounts payable and receivable, and long-term debt) are translated at the current rate; nonmonetary items (e.g., inventory, fixed assets, and long-term investments) are translated at historical rates.

Income statement items are translated at the average exchange rate during the period, except for revenue and expense items related to nonmonetary assets and liabilities. The latter items, primarily depreciation expense and cost of goods sold, are translated at the same rate as the corresponding balance sheet items. As a result, the cost of goods sold may be translated at a rate different from that used to translate sales.

Temporal Method

The temporal method appears to be a modified version of the monetary/nonmonetary method. The only difference is that under the monetary/nonmonetary method, inventory is always translated at the historical rate. Under the temporal method, inventory is normally translated at the historical rate, but it can be translated at the current rate if it is shown on the balance sheet at market values. Despite the similarities, the theoretical bases of the two methods are different. The choice of exchange rate for translation is based on the type of asset or liability in the monetary/nonmonetary method; in the temporal method, it is based on the underlying approach to evaluating cost (historical versus market). Under a historical cost-accounting system, as the United States now has, most accounting theoreticians probably would argue that the temporal method is the appropriate method for translation.

Income statement items normally are translated at an average rate for the reporting period. However, cost of goods sold and depreciation and amortization charges related to balance sheet items carried at past prices are translated at historical rates.

Current Rate Method

The current rate method is the simplest: All balance sheet and income items are translated at the current rate. This method is widely employed by British companies. With some variation, it is the method mandated by the current U.S. translation standard—FASB 52. Under the current rate method, if a firm’s foreign-currency-denominated assets exceed its foreign-currency-denominated liabilities, a devaluation must result in a loss and a revaluation must result in a gain.

Exhibit 10.2 applies the four methods to a hypothetical balance sheet that is affected by both a 25% devaluation and a 37.5% revaluation. Depending on the method chosen, the translation results for the LC devaluation can range from a loss of $205,000 to a gain of $215,000; LC revaluation results can vary from a gain of $615,000 to a loss of $645,000. The assets and liabilities that are considered exposed under each method are the ones that change in dollar value. Note that the translation gains or losses for each method show up as the change in the equity account. For example, the LC devaluation combined with the current rate method results in a $205,000 reduction in the equity account ($1,025,000 − $820,000), which equals the translation loss for this method. Another way to calculate this loss is to take the net LC translation exposure, which equals exposed assets minus exposed liabilities (for the current rate method, this figure is LC 4,100,000, which, not coincidentally, equals its equity value) and multiply it by the $0.05 ($0.25 − $0.20) change in the exchange rate. This calculation yields a translation loss of $205,000 ($0.05 × 4,100,000), the same as calculated in Exhibit 10.2. Another way to calculate this loss is to multiply the net dollar translation exposure by the fractional change in the exchange rate, or $1,025,000 × 0.05/0.25 = $205,000. Either approach gives the correct answer.

10.3 Transaction Exposure

Companies often include transaction exposure as part of their accounting exposure, although as a cash-flow exposure, it is rightly part of a company’s economic exposure. As we have seen, transaction exposure stems from the possibility of incurring future exchange gains or losses on transactions already entered into and denominated in a foreign currency. For example, when IBM sells a mainframe computer to Royal Dutch Shell in England, it typically will not be paid until a later date. If that sale is priced in pounds, IBM has a pound transaction exposure.

A company’s transaction exposure is measured currency by currency and equals the difference between contractually fixed future cash inflows and outflows in each currency. Some of these unsettled transactions, including foreign-currency-denominated debt and accounts receivable, are already listed on the firm’s balance sheet. However, other obligations, such as contracts for future sales or purchases, are not.

Application Computing Transaction Exposure for Boeing

Suppose Boeing Airlines sells five 747s to Garuda, the Indonesian airline, in rupiahs. The rupiah price is Rp 140 billion. To help reduce the impact on Indonesias balance of payments, Boeing agrees to buy parts from various Indonesian companies worth Rp 55 billion.

a. If the spot rate is $0.004/Rp, what is Boeing’s net rupiah transaction exposure?

Solution. Boeing’s net rupiah exposure equals its projected rupiah inflows minus its projected rupiah outflows, or Rp 140 billion − Rp 55 billion = Rp 85 billion. Converted into dollars at the spot rate of $0.004/Rp, Boeing’s transaction exposure equals $340 million.

b. If the rupiah depreciates to $0.0035/Rp, what is Boeing’s transaction loss?

Solution. Boeing will lose an amount equal to its rupiah exposure multiplied by the change in the exchange rate, or 85 billion X (0.004 − 0.0035) = $42.5 million. This loss can also be determined by multiplying Boeing’s exposure in dollar terms by the fractional change in the exchange rate, or 340 million X (0.0005/0.004) = $42.5 million.

Exhibit 10.2 Financial Statement Impact of Translation Alternatives (U.S. $ Thousands)

Although translation and transaction exposures overlap, they are not synonymous. Some items included in translation exposure, such as inventories and fixed assets, are excluded from transaction exposure, whereas other items included in transaction exposure, such as contracts for future sales or purchases, are not included in translation exposure. Thus, it is possible for transaction exposure in a currency to be positive and translation exposure in that same currency to be negative and vice versa.


We now come to the problem of managing exposure by means of hedging. As mentioned earlier, hedging a particular currency exposure means establishing an offsetting currency position so as to lock in a dollar (home currency) value for the currency exposure and thereby eliminate the risk posed by currency fluctuations. A variety of hedging techniques are available for managing exposure, but before a firm uses them it must decide on which exposures to manage and how to manage them. Addressing these issues successfully requires an operational set of goals for those involved in exchange risk management. Failure to set out objectives can lead to possibly conflicting and costly actions on the part of employees. Although many firms do have objectives, their goals are often so vague and simplistic (e.g., “eliminate all exposure” or “minimize reported foreign exchange losses”) that they provide little realistic guidance to managers.1 For example, should an employee told to eliminate all exposure do so by using forward contracts and currency options or by borrowing in the local currency? And if hedging is not possible in a particular currency, should sales in that currency be forgone even if it means losing potential profits? The latter policy is likely to present a manager with the dilemma of choosing between the goals of increased profits and reduced exchange losses. Moreover, reducing translation exposure could increase transaction exposure and vice versa. What trade-offs, if any, should a manager be willing to make between these two types of exposure?

These and similar questions demonstrate the need for a coherent and effective strategy. The following elements are suggested for an effective exposure management strategy:2

1. Determine the types of exposure to be monitored.

2. Formulate corporate objectives and give guidance in resolving potential conflicts in objectives.

3. Ensure that these corporate objectives are consistent with maximizing shareholder value and can be implemented.

4. Clearly specify who is responsible for which exposures, and detail the criteria by which each manager is to be judged.

5. Make explicit any constraints on the use of exposure-management techniques, such as limitations on entering into forward contracts.

6. Identify the channels by which exchange rate considerations are incorporated into operating decisions that will affect the firm’s exchange risk posture.

7. Develop a system for monitoring and evaluating exchange risk management activities.


The usefulness of a particular hedging strategy depends on both acceptability and quality. Acceptability refers to approval by those in the organization who will implement the strategy, and quality refers to the ability to provide better decisions. To be acceptable, a hedging strategy must be consistent with top management’s values and overall corporate objectives. In turn, these values and objectives are strongly motivated by management’s beliefs about financial markets and how its performance will be evaluated. The quality, or value to the shareholders, of a particular hedging strategy is, therefore, related to the congruence between those perceptions and the realities of the business environment.

The most frequently occurring objectives, explicit and implicit, in management behavior include the following:3

1. Minimize translation exposure. This common goal necessitates a complete focus on protecting foreign-currency-denominated assets and liabilities from changes in value resulting from exchange rate fluctuations. Given that translation and transaction exposures are not synonymous, reducing the former could cause an increase in the latter (and vice versa).

2. Minimize quarter-to-quarter (or year-to-year) earnings fluctuations owing to exchange rate changes. This goal requires a firm to consider both its translation exposure and its transaction exposure.

3. Minimize transaction exposure. This objective involves managing a subset of the firm’s true cash-flow exposure.

4. Minimize economic exposure. To achieve this goal, a firm must ignore accounting earnings and concentrate on reducing cash-flow fluctuations stemming from currency fluctuations.

5. Minimize foreign exchange risk management costs. This goal requires a firm to balance off the benefits of hedging with its costs. It also assumes risk neutrality.

6. Avoid surprises. This objective involves preventing large foreign exchange losses.

The most appropriate way to rank these objectives is on their consistency with the overarching goal of maximizing shareholder value. To establish what hedging can do to further this goal, we return to our discussion of total risk in Chapter 1. In that discussion, we saw that total risk tends to adversely affect a firm’s value by leading to lower sales and higher costs. Consequently, actions taken by a firm that decrease its total risk will improve its sales and cost outlooks, thereby increasing its expected cash flows.

Reducing total risk can also ensure that a firm will not run out of cash to fund its planned investment program. Otherwise, potentially profitable investment opportunities may be passed up because of corporate reluctance to tap the financial markets when internally generated cash is insufficient.4

This and other explanations for hedging all relate to the idea that there is likely to be an inverse relation between total risk and shareholder value.5 Given these considerations, the view taken here is that the basic purpose of hedging is to reduce exchange risk, where exchange risk is defined as that element of cash-flow variability attributable to currency fluctuations. This is Objective 4.

To the extent that earnings fluctuations or large losses can adversely affect the company’s perceptions in the minds of potential investors, customers, employees, and so on, there may be reason to also pay attention to Objectives 2 and 6.6 However, despite these potential benefits, there are likely to be few, if any, advantages to devoting substantial resources to managing earnings fluctuations or accounting exposure more generally (Objectives 1 and 3). To begin, trying to manage accounting exposure is inconsistent with a large body of empirical evidence that investors have the uncanny ability to peer beyond the ephemeral and concentrate on the firm’s true cash-flow-generating ability. In addition, whereas balance sheet gains and losses can be dampened by hedging, operating earnings will also fluctuate in line with the combined and offsetting effects of currency changes and inflation. Moreover, hedging costs themselves will vary unpredictably from one period to the next, leading to unpredictable earnings changes. Thus, it is impossible for firms to protect themselves from earnings fluctuations resulting from exchange rate changes except in the very short run.

Given the questionable benefits of managing accounting exposure, the emphasis in this text is on managing economic exposure. However, this chapter describes the techniques used to manage transaction and translation exposure because many of these techniques are equally applicable to hedging cash flows.

In operational terms, hedging to reduce the variance of cash flows translates into the following exposure management goal: to arrange a firm’s financial affairs in such a way that however the exchange rate may move in the future, the effects on dollar returns are minimized. This objective is not universally subscribed to, however. Instead, many firms follow a selective hedging policy designed to protect against anticipated currency movements. A selective hedging policy is especially prevalent among those firms that organize their treasury departments as profit centers. In such firms, the desire to reduce the expected costs of hedging (Objective 5)—and thereby increase profits—often leads to taking higher risks by hedging only when a currency change is expected and going unhedged otherwise.

If financial markets are efficient, however, firms cannot hedge against expected exchange rate changes. Interest rates, forward rates, and sales-contract prices should already reflect currency changes that are anticipated, thereby offsetting the loss-reducing benefits of hedging with higher costs. In the case of Mexico, for instance, the one-year forward discount in the futures market was close to 100% just before the peso was floated in 1982. The unavoidable conclusion is that a firm can protect itself only against unexpected currency changes.

Moreover, there is always the possibility of bad timing. For example, big Japanese exporters such as Toyota and Honda have incurred billions of dollars in foreign exchange losses. One reason for these losses is that Japanese companies often try to predict where the dollar is going and hedge (or not hedge) accordingly. At the beginning of 1994, many thought that the dollar would continue to strengthen, and thus they failed to hedge their exposure. When the dollar plummeted instead, they lost billions. The lesson is that firms that try simultaneously to use hedging both to reduce risk and to beat the market may end up with more risk, not less.

Application Malaysia Gets Mauled by the Currency Markets

In January 1994, Bank Negara, Malaysias central bank, declared war on “currency speculators” who were trying to profit from an anticipated rise in the Malaysian dollar. The timing of this declaration struck a nerve among currency traders because Bank Negara had itself long been a major speculator in the currency markets—a speculator whose boldness was matched only by its incompetence. During the two-year period from 1992 to 1993, Bank Negara had foreign exchange losses of M$14.7 billion (US$5.42 billion). It seems that even central banks are not immune to the consequences of market efficiency—and stupidity.

1 Dow Chemical stated in its 2007 Form 10-K (p. 54) that “The primary objective of the Company’s foreign exchange risk management is to optimize the U.S. dollar value of net assets and cash flows, keeping the adverse impact of currency movements to a minimum.” Although a laudable objective, it is difficult to determine what specific actions a manager should take to accomplish it.

2 Most of these elements are suggested in Thomas G. Evans and William R. Folks, Jr., “Defining Objectives for Exposure Management,” Business International Money Report, February 2, 1979, pp. 37-39.

3 See, for example, David B. Zenoff, “Applying Management Principles to Foreign Exchange Exposure,” Euromoney, September 1978, pp. 123-130.

4 This explanation appears in Kenneth Froot, David Scharfstein, and Jeremy Stein, “A Framework for Risk Management,” Harvard Business Review, November 1994, pp. 91-102. The reluctance to raise additional external capital may stem from the problem of information asymmetry—this problem arises when one party to a transaction knows something relevant to the transaction that the other party does not know—which could lead investors to impose higher costs on the company seeking capital.

5 For a good summary of these other rationales for corporate hedging, see Matthew Bishop, “A Survey of Corporate Risk Management,” The Economist, February 10, 1996, special section.

6 Fluctuating earnings could also boost a company’s taxes by causing it to alternate between high and low tax brackets (see Rene Stulz, “Rethinking Risk Management,” working paper, Ohio State University).

Costs and Benefits of Standard Hedging Techniques

Standard techniques for responding to anticipated currency changes are summarized in Exhibit 10.3. Such techniques, however, are vastly overrated in terms of their ability to minimize hedging costs.

Costs of Hedging.

If a devaluation is unlikely, hedging may be a costly and inefficient way of doing business. If a devaluation is expected, the cost of using the techniques (like the cost of local borrowing) rises to reflect the anticipated devaluation. Just before the August 1982 peso devaluation, for example, every company in Mexico was trying to delay peso payments. Of course, this technique cannot produce a net gain because one company’s payable is another company’s receivable. As another example, if one company wants peso trade credit, another must offer it. Assuming that both the borrower and the lender are rational, a deal will not be struck until the interest cost rises to reflect the expected decline in the peso.

Even shifting funds from one country to another is not a costless means of hedging. The net effect of speeding up remittances while delaying receipt of intercompany receivables is to force a subsidiary in a devaluation-prone country to increase its local currency borrowings to finance the additional working capital requirements. The net cost of shifting funds, therefore, is the cost of the LC loan minus the profit generated from use of the funds—for example, prepaying a hard currency loan—with both adjusted for expected exchange rate changes. As mentioned previously, loans in local currencies subject to devaluation fears carry higher interest rates that are likely to offset any gains from LC devaluation.

Exhibit 10.3 Basic Hedging Techniques

Reducing the level of cash holdings to lower exposure can adversely affect a subsidiary’s operations, whereas selling LC-denominated marketable securities can entail an opportunity cost (the lower interest rate on hard currency securities). A firm with excess cash or marketable securities should reduce its holdings regardless of whether a devaluation is anticipated. After cash balances are at the minimum level, however, any further reductions will involve real costs that must be weighed against the expected benefits.

Invoicing exports in the foreign currency and imports in the local currency may cause the loss of valuable sales or may reduce a firm’s ability to extract concessions on import prices. Similarly, tightening credit may reduce profits more than costs.

In summary, hedging exchange risk costs money and should be scrutinized like any other purchase of insurance. The costs of these hedging techniques are summarized in Exhibit 10.4.

Benefits of Hedging.

A company can benefit from the preceding techniques only to the extent that it can forecast future exchange rates more accurately than the general market. For example, if the company has a foreign currency cash inflow, it would hedge only if the forward rate exceeds its estimate of the future spot rate. Conversely, with a foreign currency cash outflow, it would hedge only if the forward rate was below its estimated future spot rate. In this way, it would apparently be following the profit-guaranteeing dictum of buy low-sell high. The key word, however, is apparently because attempting to profit from foreign exchange forecasting is speculating rather than hedging. The hedger is well advised to assume that the market knows as much as she does. Those who feel that they have superior information may choose to speculate, but this activity should not be confused with hedging.

Exhibit 10.4 Cost of the Basic Hedging Techniques

Application Selective Hedging

In March, Multinational Industries, Inc. (MII) assessed the September spot rate for sterling at the following rates:

$1.80/£ with probability 0.15

$1.85/£ with probability 0.20

$1.90/£ with probability 0.25

$1.95/£ with probability 0.20

$2.00/£ with probability 0.20

a. What is the expected spot rate for September?

Solution. The expected future spot rate is 1.80(0.15) + 1.85(0.2) + 1.90(0.25) + 1.95(0.20) + 2.00(0.20) = $1.905.

b. If the six-month forward rate is $1.90, should the firm sell forward its £500,000 pound receivables due in September?

Solution. If MII sells its pound proceeds forward, it will lock in a value of $950,000 (1.90 × 500,000). Alternatively, if it decides to wait until September and sell its pound proceeds in the spot market, it expects to receive $952,500 (1.905 × 500,000). Based on these figures, if MII wants to maximize expected profits, it should retain its pound receivables and sell the proceeds in the spot market upon receipt.

c. What factors are likely to affect Multinational Industries’ hedging decision?

Solution. Risk aversion could lead MII to sell its receivables forward to hedge their dollar value. However, if MII has pound liabilities, they could provide a natural hedge and reduce (or eliminate) the amount necessary to hedge. The existence of a cheaper hedging alternative, such as borrowing pounds and converting them to dollars for the duration of the receivables, would also make undesirable the use of a forward contract. This latter situation assumes that interest rate parity is violated. The tax treatment of foreign exchange gains and losses on forward contracts could also affect the hedging decision.

Under some circumstances, a company may benefit at the expense of the local government without speculating. Such a circumstance would involve the judicious use of market imperfections or existing tax asymmetries, or both. In the case of an overvalued currency, such as the Mexican peso in 1982, if exchange controls are not imposed to prevent capital outflows and if hard currency can be acquired at the official exchange rate, then money can be moved out of the country via intercompany payments. For instance, a subsidiary can speed payments of intercompany accounts payable, make immediate purchases from other subsidiaries, or speed remittances to the parent. Unfortunately, governments are not unaware of these tactics. During a currency crisis, when hard currency is scarce, the local government can be expected to block such transfers or at least make them more expensive.

Another often-cited reason for market imperfection is that individual investors may not have equal access to capital markets. For example, because forward exchange markets exist only for the major currencies, hedging often requires local borrowing in heavily regulated capital markets. As a legal citizen of many nations, the MNC normally has greater access to these markets.

Similarly, if forward contract losses are treated as a cost of doing business, whereas gains are taxed at a lower capital gains rate, the firm can engage in tax arbitrage. In the absence of financial market imperfections or tax asymmetries, however, the net expected value of hedging over time should be zero. Despite the questionable value to shareholders of hedging balance sheet exposure or even transaction exposure, however, managers often try to reduce these exposures because they are evaluated, at least in part, on translation or transaction gains or losses.

In one area, at least, companies can reduce their exchange risk at no cost. This costless hedging technique is known as exposure netting.

Exposure Netting.

Exposure netting involves offsetting exposures in one currency with exposures in the same or another currency, where exchange rates are expected to move in a way such that losses (gains) on the first exposed position will be offset by gains (losses) on the second currency exposure. This portfolio approach to hedging recognizes that the total variability or risk of a currency exposure portfolio will be less than the sum of the individual variabilities of each currency exposure considered in isolation. The assumption underlying exposure netting is that the net gain or loss on the entire currency exposure portfolio is what matters, rather than the gain or loss on any individual monetary unit.

Centralization versus Decentralization

In the area of foreign exchange risk management, there are good arguments both for and against centralization. Favoring centralization is the reasonable assumption that local treasurers want to optimize their own financial and exposure positions, regardless of the overall corporate situation. An example is a multibillion-dollar U.S. consumer-goods firm that gives its affiliates a free hand in deciding on their hedging policies. The firm’s local treasurers ignore the possibilities available to the corporation to trade off positive and negative currency exposure positions by consolidating exposure worldwide. If subsidiary A sells to subsidiary B in sterling, then from the corporate perspective, these sterling exposures net out on a consolidated translation basis (but only before tax). If A or B or both hedge their sterling positions, however, unnecessary hedging takes place, or a zero sterling exposure turns into a positive or negative position. Furthermore, in their dealings with external customers, some affiliates may wind up with a positive exposure and others with a negative exposure in the same currency. Through lack of knowledge or incentive, individual subsidiaries may undertake hedging actions that increase rather than decrease overall corporate exposure in a given currency.

A further benefit of centralized exposure management is the ability to take advantage, through exposure netting, of the portfolio effect discussed previously. Thus, centralization of exchange risk management should reduce the amount of hedging required to achieve a given level of safety.

After the company has decided on the maximum currency exposure it is willing to tolerate, it can then select the cheapest option(s) worldwide to hedge its remaining exposure. Tax effects can be crucial at this stage, in computing both the amounts to hedge and the costs involved, but only headquarters will have the required global perspective. Centralized management also is needed to take advantage of the before-tax hedging cost variations that are likely to exist among subsidiaries because of market imperfections.

All these arguments for centralization of currency risk management are powerful. Against the benefits must be weighed the loss of local knowledge and the lack of incentive for local managers to take advantage of particular situations that only they may be familiar with. Companies that decentralize the hedging decision may allow local units to manage their own exposures by engaging in forward contracts with a central unit at negotiated rates. The central unit, in turn, may or may not lay off these contracts in the marketplace.

Managing Risk Management

A number of highly publicized cases of derivatives-related losses have highlighted the potential dangers in the use of derivatives such as futures and options. Although not all these losses involved the use of currency derivatives, several lessons for risk management can be drawn from these cases, which include the bankruptcies of Orange County and Barings PLC and the huge losses taken at AIG, Merrill Lynch, Kidder Peabody, Sumitomo, Daiwa, Allied Irish Banks, Union Bank of Switzerland, and Citic Pacific. The most important lesson to be learned is that risk management failures have their origins in inadequate systems and controls rather than from any risk inherent in the use of derivatives themselves.7 In every case of large losses, senior management did not fully understand the activities of those taking positions in derivatives and failed to monitor and supervise their activities adequately. Some specific lessons learned include the following.

First, segregate the duties of those trading derivatives from those supposed to monitor them. For example, Nicholas Leeson, the rogue trader who sank Barings, was in charge of trading and also kept his own books. When he took losses, he covered them up and doubled his bets. Similarly, the manager responsible for the profits generated by trading derivatives at UBS also oversaw the risks of his position. No one else at the bank was allowed to examine the risks his department was taking. And a rogue trader at Sumitomo, who lost $1.8 billion, oversaw the accounts that kept track of his dealings. These conflicts of interest are a recipe for disaster.

Second, derivatives positions should be limited to prevent the possibility of catastrophic losses, and they should be marked to market every day to avoid the possibility of losses going unrecognized and being allowed to accumulate. As in the cases of Barings and Sumitomo, traders who can roll over their positions at nonmarket prices tend to make bigger and riskier bets to recoup their losses.

Third, compensation arrangements should be designed to shift more of the risk onto the shoulders of those taking the risks. For example, deferring part of traders’ salaries until their derivatives positions actually pay off would make them more cognizant of the risks they are taking. Fourth, one should pay attention to warning signs. For example, Barings was slow to respond to an audit showing significant discrepancies in Leeson’s accounts. Similarly, Kidder Peabody’s executives ignored a trader who was generating record profits while supposedly engaging in risk-free arbitrage. A related lesson is that there’s no free lunch. Traders and others delivering high profits deserve special scrutiny by independent auditors. The auditors must pay particular attention to the valuation of exotic derivatives—specialized contracts not actively traded. Given the lack of ready market prices for exotics, it is easy for traders to overvalue their positions in exotics without independent oversight. Finally, those who value reward above risk will likely wind up with risk at the expense of reward.

Application The Luck of the Irish Eludes Allied Irish Banks

In February 2002, Allied Irish Banks announced that a rogue trader at its U.S. unit lost $750 million through unauthorized foreign exchange trades. Allied said John Rusnak, a foreign exchange dealer at its U.S. unit Allfirst tried to disguise huge losses through fictitious foreign exchange trades over the past year. Traders in the foreign exchange market believe that Rusnak bet on the wrong direction of the Japanese yen, which was the only currency that moved enough during that period to have enabled a trader to pile up such colossal losses. The foreign exchange trades at issue were believed by the bank to have been hedged with currency options to reduce their risk. As it turned out, however, the options that Rusnak claimed to have bought were fictitious, leaving the bank with enormous “naked” (unhedged) foreign exchange positions. As his losses piled up, he placed even larger foreign currency bets, which turned sour as well. Bank analysts said the episode raised serious issues about the risk management controls in place at Allied and throughout the entire banking industry that are supposed to prevent the kinds of events that apparently hit Allied.

7 According to Anthony M. Santomero, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, some bank managers have little knowledge of controls on their trading activities. For example, when he visited a major financial institution in New York, the CEO assured him that the bank had a highly sophisticated risk-management system already in place, the CFO said they had just implemented it, the head of trading said they were about to implement it, and the traders had never heard of it. See Anthony M. Santomero, “Processes and Progress in Risk Management,” Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Q1 2003, p. 3.

Accounting for Hedging and FASB 133

Companies have a greater incentive for systematizing their hedging practices since FASB issued its Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 133 (FASB 133) to establish accounting and reporting standards for derivative instruments and for hedging activities. Under FASB 133, a foreign currency derivative that qualifies as a foreign currency hedge gets special hedge accounting treatment that essentially matches gains or losses resulting from the changes in the value of the derivative with losses or gains in the value of the underlying transaction or asset, thereby removing these hedging gains and losses from current income. However, any change in the value of the derivative not offset by a change in the value of the hedged item is recorded to earnings in the current period. Foreign currency hedges include hedges of net investments in foreign operations, of forecasted foreign currency transactions, and of foreign-currency-denominated assets or liabilities.

Under FASB, an entity that elects to apply hedge accounting is required to formally document each hedging transaction from the outset, explain its risk management objective and strategy for undertaking the hedge and the nature of the risk being hedged, and establish the method it will use for assessing the effectiveness of the hedging derivative and its measurement approach for determining the ineffective aspect of the hedge.

Three points are worth noting.

Hedge designations are critical. Each hedging relationship should fit into the company’s risk management objectives and strategy, which must be documented.

Hedging must be effective. To qualify for hedge accounting, an entity must demonstrate a hedging relationship to be highly effective in achieving offsetting changes in fair value or cash flows for the risk being hedged. “Highly effective” has been interpreted to mean a correlation ratio between 80% to 125% (this is the change in value of the derivative divided by the change in value of the hedged item).

Hedge ineffectiveness can lead to earnings volatility. A foreign currency derivative that cannot be shown to be effective in hedging a specific foreign currency risk must be marked to market and any gain or loss on it included in current earnings, making reported earnings more volatile.

10.5 Managing Translation Exposure

Firms have three available methods for managing their translation exposure: (1) adjusting fund flows, (2) entering into forward contracts, and (3) exposure netting. The basic hedging strategy for reducing translation exposure shown in Exhibit 10.5 uses these methods. Essentially, the strategy involves increasing hard currency (likely to appreciate) assets and decreasing soft currency (likely to depreciate) assets, while simultaneously decreasing hard currency liabilities and increasing soft currency liabilities. For example, if a devaluation appears likely, the basic hedging strategy will be executed as follows: Reduce the level of cash, tighten credit terms to decrease accounts receivable, increase LC borrowing, delay accounts payable, and sell the weak currency forward. An expected currency appreciation would trigger the opposite tactics.

Despite their prevalence among firms, these hedging activities are not automatically valuable. As discussed in the previous section, if the market already recognizes the likelihood of currency appreciation or depreciation, this recognition will be reflected in the costs of the various hedging techniques. Only if the firm’s anticipations differ from the markets and are also superior to the markets can hedging lead to reduced costs. Otherwise, the principal value of hedging would be to protect a firm from unforeseen currency fluctuations.

Funds Adjustment

Most techniques for hedging an impending LC devaluation reduce LC assets or increase LC liabilities, thereby generating LC cash. If accounting exposure is to be reduced, these funds must be converted into hard currency assets. For example, a company will reduce its translation loss if, before an LC devaluation, it converts some of its LC cash holdings to the home currency. This conversion can be accomplished, either directly or indirectly, by means of funds adjustment techniques.

Exhibit 10.5 Basic Strategy for Hedging Translation Exposure

Funds adjustment involves altering either the amounts or the currencies (or both) of the planned cash flows of the parent or its subsidiaries to reduce the firm’s local currency accounting exposure. If an LC devaluation is anticipated, direct funds adjustment methods include pricing exports in hard currencies and imports in the local currency, investing in hard currency securities, and replacing hard currency borrowings with local currency loans. The indirect methods, which are elaborated upon in Chapter 20, include adjusting transfer prices on the sale of goods between affiliates; speeding up the payment of dividends, fees, and royalties; and adjusting the leads and lags of intersubsidiary accounts. The last method, which is the one most frequently used by multinationals, involves speeding up the payment of intersubsidiary accounts payable and delaying the collection of intersubsidiary accounts receivable. These hedging procedures for devaluations would be reversed for revaluations (see Exhibit 10.3, p. 366).

Some of these techniques or tools may require considerable lead time, and—as is the case with a transfer price—once they are introduced, they cannot easily be changed. In addition, techniques such as transfer price, fee and royalty, and dividend flow adjustments fall into the realm of corporate policy and are not usually under the treasurer’s control, although this situation may be changing. It is, therefore, incumbent on the treasurer to educate other decision makers about the impact of these tools on the costs and management of corporate exposure.

Although entering forward contracts is the most popular coverage technique, the leading and lagging of payables and receivables is almost as important. For those countries in which a formal market in LC forward contracts does not exist, leading and lagging and LC borrowing are the most important techniques. The bulk of international business, however, is conducted in those few currencies for which forward markets do exist.

Forward contracts can reduce a firm’s translation exposure by creating an offsetting asset or liability in the foreign currency. For example, suppose that IBM U.K. has translation exposure of £40 million (i.e., sterling assets exceed sterling liabilities by that amount). IBM U.K. can eliminate its entire translation exposure by selling £40 million forward. Any loss (gain) on its translation exposure will then be offset by a corresponding gain (loss) on its forward contract. Note, however, that the gain (or loss) on the forward contract is of a cash-flow nature and is netted against an unrealized translation loss (or gain).

Selecting convenient (less risky) currencies for invoicing exports and imports and adjusting transfer prices are two techniques that are less frequently used, perhaps because of constraints on their use. It is often difficult, for instance, to make a customer or supplier accept billing in a particular currency.

Exposure netting is an additional exchange-management technique that is available to multinational firms with positions in more than one foreign currency or with offsetting positions in the same currency. As defined earlier, this technique involves offsetting exposures in one currency with exposures in the same or another currency such that gains and losses on the two currency positions will offset each other.

Evaluating Alternative Hedging Mechanisms

Ordinarily, the selection of a funds adjustment strategy cannot proceed by evaluating each possible technique separately without risking suboptimization; for example, whether a firm chooses to borrow locally is not independent of its decision to use or not use those funds to import additional hard currency inventory. However, when the level of forward contracts that the financial manager can enter into is unrestricted, the following two-stage methodology allows the optimal level of forward transactions to be determined apart from the selection of what funds adjustment techniques to use.8 Moreover, this methodology is valid regardless of the manager’s (or firm’s) attitude toward risk.

Stage 1: Compute the profit associated with each funds adjustment technique on a covered after-tax basis. Transactions that are profitable on a covered basis ought to be undertaken regardless of whether they increase or decrease the firm’s accounting exposure. However, such activities should not be termed hedging; rather, they involve the use of arbitrage to exploit market distortions.

Stage 2: Any unwanted exposure resulting from the first stage can be corrected in the forward market. Stage 2 is the selection of an optimal level of forward transactions based on the firm’s initial exposure, adjusted for the impact on exposure of decisions made in Stage 1. When the forward market is nonexistent, or when access to it is limited, the firm must determine both the techniques to use and their appropriate levels. In the latter case, a comparison of the net cost of a funds adjustment technique with the anticipated currency depreciation will indicate whether the hedging transaction is profitable on an expected-value basis.

8 This methodology is presented in William R. Folks, Jr., “Decision Analysis for Exchange Risk Management,” Financial Management, Winter 1972, pp. 101-112.

10.6 Managing Transaction Exposure

As we saw in Section 10.1, transaction exposure arises whenever a company is committed to a foreign-currency-denominated transaction. Since the transaction will result in a future foreign currency cash inflow or outflow, any change in the exchange rate between the time the transaction is entered into and the time it is settled in cash will lead to a change in the dollar (HC) amount of the cash inflow or outflow. Protective measures to guard against transaction exposure involve entering into foreign currency transactions whose cash flows exactly offset the cash flows of the transaction exposure.

These protective measures include using forward contracts, price adjustment clauses, currency options, and borrowing or lending in the foreign currency. For example, General Electric explained its hedging activities in its 2007 Annual Report (p. 52) as follows:

Financial results of our global activities reported in U.S. dollars are affected by currency exchange. We use a number of techniques to manage the effects of currency exchange, including selective borrowings in local currencies and selective hedging of significant cross-currency transactions. Such principal currencies are the pound sterling, the euro, the Japanese yen and the Canadian dollar.

Alternatively, the company could try to invoice all transactions in dollars and to avoid transaction exposure entirely. However, eliminating transaction exposure does not eliminate all foreign exchange risk. The firm still is subject to exchange risk on its future revenues and costs—its operating cash flows. In its 2007 Annual Report (p. 49), IBM explained that its hedging program may not completely eliminate all the risks:

The company earned approximately 47 percent of its pre-tax income from continuing operations in currencies other than the U.S. dollar. The company also maintains hedging programs to limit the volatility of currency impacts on the company’s financial results. These hedging programs limit the impact of currency changes on the company’s financial results but do not eliminate them. In addition to the translation of earnings and the company’s hedging programs, the impact of currency changes also will affect the company’s pricing and sourcing actions. For example, the company may procure components and supplies in multiple functional currencies and sell products and services in other currencies. Therefore, it is impractical to quantify the impact of currency on these transactions and on consolidated Net income.

We will now look at the various techniques for managing transaction exposure by examining the case of General Electric’s euro exposure. Suppose that on January 1, GE is awarded a contract to supply turbine blades to Lufthansa, the German airline. On December 31, GE will receive payment of €10 million for these blades. The most direct way for GE to hedge this receivable is to sell a €10 million forward contract for delivery in one year. Alternatively, it can use a money market hedge, which would involve borrowing €10 million for one year, converting it into dollars, and investing the proceeds in a security that matures on December 31. As we will see, if interest rate parity holds, the two methods will yield the same results. GE can also manage its transaction exposure through risk shifting, risk sharing, exposure netting, and currency options.

Forward Market Hedge

In a forward market hedge, a company that is long a foreign currency will sell the foreign currency forward, whereas a company that is short a foreign currency will buy the currency forward. In this way, the company can fix the dollar value of future foreign currency cash flow. For example, by selling forward the proceeds from its sale of turbine blades, GE can effectively transform the currency denomination of its €10 million receivable from euros to dollars, thereby eliminating all currency risk on the sale. For example, suppose the current spot price for the euro is $1.500/€, and the one-year forward rate is $1.479/€. Then, a forward sale of €10 million for delivery in one year will yield GE $14.79 million on December 31. Exhibit 10.6 shows the cash-flow consequences of combining the forward sale with the euro receivable, given three possible exchange rate scenarios.

Regardless of what happens to the future spot rate, Exhibit 10.6 demonstrates that GE still gets to collect $14.79 million on its turbine sale. Any exchange gain or loss on the forward contract will be offset by a corresponding exchange loss or gain on the receivable. The effects of this transaction also can be seen with the following simple T-account describing GE’s position as of December 31:

Exhibit 10.6 Possible Outcomes of Forward Market Hedge as of December 31

December 31: GE T-Account (Millions)

Account receivable


Forward contract payment


Forward contract receipt


Without hedging, GE will have a €10 million asset whose value will fluctuate with the exchange rate. The forward contract creates an equal euro liability, offset by an asset worth $14.79 million dollars. The euro asset and liability cancel each other out, and GE is left with a $14.79 million asset.

This example illustrates another point as well: Hedging with forward contracts eliminates the downside risk at the expense of forgoing the upside potential.

The True Cost of Hedging.

Exhibit 10.6 also shows that the true cost of hedging cannot be calculated in advance because it depends on the future spot rate, which is unknown at the time the forward contract is entered into. In the GE example, the actual cost of hedging can vary from +$210,000 to −$790,000; a plus (+) represents a cost, and a minus (—) represents a negative cost or a gain. In percentage terms, the cost varies from −5.3% to +1.4%.

This example points out the distinction between the traditional method of calculating the cost of a forward contract and the correct method, which measures its opportunity cost. Specifically, the cost of a forward contract is usually measured as its forward discount or premium:

where e0 is the current spot rate (dollar price) of the foreign currency and f1 is the forward rate. In GE’s case, this cost would equal 1.4%.

However, this approach is wrong because the relevant comparison must be between the dollars per unit of foreign currency received with hedging, f1, and the dollars received in the absence of hedging, e1, where e1 is the future (unknown) spot rate on the date of settlement. That is, the real cost of hedging is an opportunity cost. In particular, if the forward contract had not been entered into, the future value of each unit of foreign currency would have been e1 dollars. Thus, the true dollar cost of the forward contract per dollar’s worth of foreign currency sold forward equals

The expected cost (value) of a forward contract depends on whether a risk premium or other source of bias exists. Absent such bias, the expected cost of hedging via a forward contract will be zero. Otherwise, there would be an arbitrage opportunity. Suppose, for example, that management at General Electric believes that despite a one-year forward rate of $1.479, the euro will actually be worth about $1.491 on December 31. Then GE could profit by buying (rather than selling) euros forward for one year at $1.479 and, on December 31, completing the contract by selling euros in the spot market at $1.491. If GE is correct, it will earn $0.012 (1.491 − 1.479) per euro sold forward. On a €10 million forward contract, this profit would amount to $120,000—a substantial reward for a few minutes of work.

The prospect of such rewards would not go unrecognized for long, which explains why, on average, the forward rate appears to be unbiased. Therefore, unless GE or any other company has some special information about the future spot rate that it has good reason to believe is not adequately reflected in the forward rate, it should accept the forward rate’s predictive validity as a working hypothesis and avoid speculative activities. After the fact, of course, the actual cost of a forward contract will turn out to be positive or negative (unless the future spot rate equals the forward rate), but the sign cannot be predicted in advance.

On the other hand, the evidence presented in Chapter 4 points to the possibility of bias in the forward rate at any point in time. The nature of this apparent bias suggests that the selective use of forward contracts in hedging may reduce expected hedging costs, but beware of the peso problem—the possibility that historical returns may be unrepresentative of future returns. The specific cost-minimizing selective hedging policy to take advantage of this bias would depend on whether you are trying to hedge a long or a short position in a currency. The policy is as follows:

• If you are long a currency, hedge (by selling forward) if the currency is at a forward premium; if the currency is at a forward discount, do not hedge.

• If you are short a currency, hedge (by buying forward) if the currency is selling at a forward discount; if the currency is at a forward premium, do not hedge.

As discussed in Section 10.4, however, this selective hedging policy does not come free; it may reduce expected costs but at the expense of higher risk. Absent other considerations, therefore, the impact on shareholder wealth of selective hedging via forward contracts should be minimal, with any expected gains likely to be offset by higher risk.

Money Market Hedge

An alternative to a forward market hedge is to use a money market hedge. A money market hedge involves simultaneous borrowing and lending activities in two different currencies to lock in the dollar value of a future foreign currency cash flow. For example, suppose euro and U.S. dollar interest rates are 7% and 5.5%, respectively. Using a money market hedge, General Electric will borrow €(10/1.07) million = €9.35 million for one year, convert it into $14.02 million in the spot market, and invest the $14.02 million for one year at 5.5%. On December 31, GE will receive 1.055 X $14.02 million = $14.79 million from its dollar investment. GE will then use the proceeds of its euro receivable, collectible on that date, to repay the 1.07 X €9.35 million = €10 million it owes in principal and interest. As Exhibit 10.7 shows, the exchange gain or loss on the borrowing and lending transactions exactly offsets the dollar loss or gain on GE’s euro receivable.

The gain or loss on the money market hedge can be calculated simply by subtracting the cost of repaying the euro debt from the dollar value of the investment. For example, in the case of an end-of-year spot rate of $1.50, the €10 million in principal and interest will cost $15 million to repay. The return on the dollar investment is only $14.79 million, leaving a loss on the money market hedge of $210,000.

We can also view the effects of this transaction with the simple T-account used earlier:

December 31: GE T-Account (Millions)

Account receivable


Loan repayment (including interest)


Investment return (including interest)


As with the forward contract, the euro asset and liability (the loan repayment) cancel each other out, and GE is left with a $14.79 million asset (its investment).

The equality of the net cash flows from the forward market and money market hedges is not coincidental. The interest rates and forward and spot rates were selected so that interest rate parity would hold. In effect, the simultaneous borrowing and lending transactions associated with a money market hedge enable GE to create a “homemade” forward contract. The effective rate on this forward contract will equal the actual forward rate if interest rate parity holds. Otherwise, a covered interest arbitrage opportunity would exist.

In reality, there are transaction costs associated with hedging: the bid-ask spread on the forward contract and the difference between borrowing and lending rates. These transaction costs must be factored in when comparing a forward contract hedge with a money market hedge. The key to making these comparisons, as shown in Chapter 7, is to ensure that the correct bid and ask and borrowing and lending rates are used.

Exhibit 10.7 Possible Outcomes of Money Market Hedge as of December 31

Application Comparing Hedging Alternatives When There Are Transaction Costs

PespsiCo would like to hedge its C$40 million payable to Alcan, a Canadian aluminum producer, which is due in 90 days. Suppose it faces the following exchange and interest rates:

Spot rate:


Forward rate (90 days):


Canadian dollar 90-day interest rate (annualized):


U.S. dollar 90-day interest rate (annualized):


Which hedging alternative would you recommend? Note that the first interest rate is the borrowing rate and the second one is the lending rate.

Solution. The hedged cost of the payable using the forward market is U.S. $37,844,000 (0.9461 × 40,000,000), remembermg that PepsiCo must buy forward Canadian dollars at the ask rate. Alternatively, PepsiCo could use a money market hedge. This hedge would entail the following steps:

1. Borrow U.S. dollars at 5.50% annualized for 90 days (the borrowing rate). The actual interest rate for 90 days will be 1.375% (5.50% X 90/360).

2. Convert the U.S. dollars into Canadian dollars at $0.9431 (the ask rate).

3. Invest the Canadian dollars for 90 days at 4.64% annualized for 90 days (the lending rate) and use the loan proceeds to pay Alcan. The actual interest rate for 90 days will be 1.16% (4.64% X 90/360).

Since PepsiCo needs C$40 million in 90 days and will earn interest equal to 1.16%, it must invest the present value of this sum or C$39,541,321 (40,000,000/1.0116). This sum is equivalent to U.S.$37,291,420 converted at the spot ask rate (39,541,321 × 0.9431). At a 90-day borrowing rate of 1.375%, PepsiCo must pay back principal plus interest in 90 days of U.S.$37,804,177 (37,291,420 × 1.01375). Thus, the hedged cost of the payable using the money market hedge is $37,804,177.

Comparing the two hedged costs, we see that by using the money market hedge instead of the forward market hedge, PepsiCo will save $39,823 (37,844,000 − 37,804,177). Other things being equal, therefore, this is the recommended hedge for PepsiCo.

Application Plantronics Hedges Its Exposure

Plantronics owes SKr 50 million, due in one year, for electrical equipment it recently bought from ABB Asea Brown Boveri. At the current spot rate of $0.1480/SKr, this payable is $7.4 million. It wishes to hedge this payable but is undecided how to do it. The one-year forward rate is currently $0.1436. Plantronics’ treasurer notes that the company has $10 million in a marketable U.S. dollar CD yielding 7% per annum. At the same time, SE Banken in Stockholm is offering a one-year time deposit rate of 10.5%.

a. What is the low-cost hedging alternative for Plantronics? What is the cost?

Solution. Plantronics can use the forward market to lock in a cost for its payable of $7.18 million. Alternatively, Plantronics can use a money market hedge to lock in a lower dollar cost of $7,165,611 for its payable. Thus, the money market hedge is the low-cost hedge. To compute this cost, note that Plantronics must invest SKr 45,248,869 today at 10.5% to have SKr 50 million in one year (45,248,869 × 0.105 = 50 million). This amount is equivalent to $6,696,833 at the current spot of SKr $0.1480/SKr. The opportunity cost to Plantronics of taking this amount from its CD today and converting it into SKr is $7,165,611, which is the future value of $6,696,833 invested at 7%.

b. Suppose interest rate parity held. What would the one-year forward rate be?

Solution. Interest rate parity holds when the dollar return on investing dollars equals the dollar return on investing SKr, or 1.07 = (1/0.1480) X 1.105 X f1, where f1 is the equilibrium one-year forward rate. The solution to this equation is f1 = $0.1433/SKr. Because the actual one-year forward rate exceeds this number, interest rate parity does not hold and a forward hedge is more expensive than a money market hedge.

Risk Shifting

To return to our previous example, General Electric can avoid its transaction exposure altogether if Lufthansa allows it to price the sale of turbine blades in dollars. Dollar invoicing, however, does not eliminate currency risk; it simply shifts that risk from GE to Lufthansa, which now has dollar exposure. Lufthansa may or may not be better able, or more willing, to bear it. Despite the fact that this form of risk shifting is a zero-sum game, it is common in international business. Firms typically attempt to invoice exports in strong currencies and imports in weak currencies.

Is it possible to gain from risk shifting? Not if one is dealing with informed customers or suppliers. To see why, consider the GE-Lufthansa deal. If Lufthansa is willing to be invoiced in dollars for the turbine blades, that must be because Lufthansa calculates that its euro equivalent cost will be no higher than the €10 million price it was originally prepared to pay. Since Lufthansa does not have to pay for the turbine blades until December 31, its cost will be based on the spot price of the dollars as of that date. By buying dollars forward at the one-year forward rate of $1.479/€, Lufthansa can convert a dollar price of P into a euro cost of P/1.479. Thus, the maximum dollar price PM that Lufthansa should be willing to pay for the turbine blades is the solution to


Considering that GE can guarantee itself $14.79 million by pricing in euros and selling the resulting €10 million forward, it will not accept a lower dollar price. The bottom line is that both Lufthansa and General Electric will be indifferent between a U.S. dollar price and a euro price only if the two prices are equal at the forward exchange rate. Therefore, because the euro price arrived at through arm’s-length negotiations is €10 million, the dollar price that is equally acceptable to Lufthansa and GE can only be $14.79 million. Otherwise, one or both of the parties involved in the negotiations has ignored the possibility of currency changes. Such naiveté is unlikely to exist for long in the highly competitive world of international business.

Pricing Decisions

Notwithstanding the view just expressed, top management sometimes has failed to take anticipated exchange rate changes into account when making operating decisions, leaving financial management with the essentially impossible task, through purely financial operations, of recovering a loss already incurred at the time of the initial transaction. To illustrate this type of error, suppose that GE has priced Lufthansa’s order of turbine blades at $15 million and then, because Lufthansa demands to be quoted a price in euro, converts the dollar price to a euro quote of €10 million, using the spot rate of $1.50/€.

In reality, the quote is worth only $14.79 million—even though it is booked at $15 million—because that is the risk-free price that GE can guarantee for itself by using the forward market. If GE management wanted to sell the blades for $15 million, it should have set a euro price equal to €15,000,000/1.479 = €10.14 million. Thus, GE lost $210,000 the moment it signed the contract (assuming that Lufthansa would have agreed to the higher price rather than turn to another supplier). This loss is not an exchange loss; it is a loss due to management inattentiveness.

The general rule on credit sales overseas is to convert between the foreign currency price and the dollar price by using the forward rate, not the spot rate. If the dollar price is high enough, the exporter should follow through with the sale. Similarly, if the dollar price on a foreign-currency-denominated import is low enough, the importer should follow through on the purchase. All this rule does is recognize that a euro (or any other foreign currency) tomorrow is not the same as a euro today. This rule is the international analogue to the insight that a dollar tomorrow is not the same as a dollar today. In the case of a sequence of payments to be received at several points in time, the foreign currency price should be a weighted average of the forward rates for delivery on those dates.

Application Weyerhaeuser Quotes a Euro Price for Its Lumber

Weyerhaeuser is asked to quote a price in euros for lumber sales to a French company. The lumber will be shipped and paid for in four equal quarterly installments. Weyerhaeuser requires a minimum price of $1 million to accept this contract. If PF is the euro price contracted for, then Weyerhaeuser will receive 0.25PF every three months, beginning 90 days from now. Suppose the spot and forward rates for the euro are as follows:











On the basis of these forward rates, the certainty-equivalent dollar value of this euro revenue is 0.25PF(1.4767 + 1.4761 + 1.4758 + 1.4751), or 0.25PF(5.9037) = $1.4759PF. In order for Weyerhaeuser to realize $1 million from this sale, the minimum euro price must be the solution to


At any lower euro price, Weyerhaeuser cannot be assured of receiving the $1 million it demands for this sale. Note that the spot rate did not enter into any of these calculations.

Exposure Netting

As defined in Section 10.4, exposure netting involves offsetting exposures in one currency with exposures in the same or another currency, when exchange rates are expected to move in such a way that losses (gains) on the first exposed position should be offset by gains (losses) on the second currency exposure. Although simple conceptually, implementation of exposure netting can be more involved. It is easy to see, for example, that a €1 million receivable and €1 million payable cancel each other out, with no net (before-tax) exposure. Dow Chemical explained this basic form of exposure netting in its 2007 Form 10-K (p. 81) when it stated that “Assets and liabilities denominated in the same foreign currency are netted, and only the net exposure is hedged.” It may be less obvious that such exposure netting can also be accomplished by using positions in different currencies. However, multinationals commonly engage in multicurrency exposure netting. In practice, exposure netting involves one of three possibilities:

1. A firm can offset a long position in a currency with a short position in that same currency.

2. If the exchange rate movements of two currencies are positively correlated (e.g., the Swiss franc and euro), then the firm can offset a long position in one currency with a short position in the other.

3. If the currency movements are negatively correlated, then short (or long) positions can be used to offset each other.

Application Using Exposure Netting to Manage Transaction Exposure

Suppose that Apex Computers has the following transaction exposures:

Apex T-Account (Millions)

Marketable securities


Accounts payable


Accounts receivable

SFr 6.2

Bank loan

SFr 14.8

Tax liability


On a net basis, before taking currency correlations into account, Apex’s transaction exposures—now converted into dollar terms—are

Apex T-Account (Millions)

Euro (1.3)


Swiss franc (8.6)


Mexican peso (15.4)


Given the historical positive correlation between the euro and Swiss franc, Apex decides to net out its euro long position from its franc short position, leaving it with a net short position in the Swiss franc of $6.6 million ($1.9 million − $8.5 million). Finally, Apex takes into account the historical negative correlation between the Mexican peso and the Swiss franc and offsets these two short positions. The result is a net short position in Swiss francs of $4.4 million ($6.6 million − $2.2 million). By hedging only this residual transaction exposure, Apex can dramatically reduce the volume of its hedging transactions. The latter exposure netting—offsetting euro, Swiss franc, and Mexican peso exposures with one another—depends on the strength of the correlations among these currencies. Specifically, Apex’s offsetting its exposures on a dollar-for-dollar basis will be fully effective and appropriate only if the correlations are + 1 for the €/SFr currency pair and − 1 for the SFr/Mex$ currency pair.

Currency Risk Sharing

In addition to, or instead of, a traditional hedge, General Electric and Lufthansa can agree to share the currency risks associated with their turbine blade contract. Currency risk sharing can be implemented by developing a customized hedge contract embedded in the underlying trade transaction. This hedge contract typically takes the form of a price adjustment clause, whereby a base price is adjusted to reflect certain exchange rate changes. For example, the base price could be set at €10 million, but the parties would share the currency risk beyond a neutral zone. The neutral zone represents the currency range in which risk is not shared.

Suppose the neutral zone is specified as a band of exchange rates: $1.48-1.52/€, with a base rate of $1.50/€. This means that the exchange rate can fall as far as $1.48/€ or rise as high as $1.52/€ without reopening the contract. Within the neutral zone, Lufthansa must pay GE the dollar equivalent of €10 million at the base rate of $1.50, or $15 million. Thus, Lufthansa’s cost within the neutral zone can vary from €9.87 million to €10.14 million (15 million/1.52 to 15 million/1.48). However, if the euro depreciates from $1.50 to, say, $1.40, the actual rate will have moved $0.08 beyond the lower boundary of the neutral zone ($1.48/€). This amount is shared equally. Thus, the exchange rate actually used in settling the transaction is $1.46/€ ($1.50 − 0.08/2). The new price of the turbine blades becomes €10 million X 1.46, or $14.6 million. Lufthansas cost rises to €10.43 million (14,600,000/1.40). In the absence of a risk-sharing agreement, the contract value to GE would have been $14.0 million. Of course, if the euro appreciates beyond the upper bound to, say, $1.60, GE does not get the full benefit of the euro’s rise in value. Instead, the new contract exchange rate becomes $1.54 (1.50 + 0.08/2). GE collects €10 million X 1.54, or $15.4 million, and Lufthansa pays a price of €9.63 million (15,400,000/1.60).

Exhibit 10.8 compares the currency risk protection features of the currency risk-sharing arrangement with that of a traditional forward contract (at a forward rate of $1.479) and a no-hedge alternative. Within the neutral zone, the dollar value of GE’s contract under the risk-sharing agreement stays at $15 million. This situation is equivalent to Lufthansa selling GE a forward contract at the current spot rate of $1.50. Beyond the neutral zone, the contract’s dollar value rises or falls only half as much under the risk-sharing agreement as under the no-hedge alternative. The value of the hedged contract remains the same, regardless of the exchange rate.

Exhibit 10.8 Currency Risk Sharing: GE and Lufthansa

Mini-Case Chrysler Shares Its Currency Risk with Mitsubishi

In 1983, Chrysler entered into a contract with Mitsubishi Motors Corporation for V6 engines. This contract, which became the major element of Chryslers foreign currency exposure, stipulated that for exchange rates from ¥240 to ¥220 to the dollar, Mitsubishi would absorb the entire cost of an exchange rate change. Within the range ¥220/$ to ¥190/$, Chrysler and Mitsubishi split the cost of exchange rate shifts evenly. In the range ¥190/$ to ¥130/$, Chrysler bore 75% of the costs of exchange rate shifts; below ¥130/$, Chrysler had to absorb the entire cost. Assume that the exchange rate at the time of the contract was ¥240/$ and that the price of a V6 engine was contractually set at ¥270,000.


1. Show how the dollar cost to Chrysler of an engine changed over the range ¥240/$ to ¥100/$.

2. Show how Mitsubishis yen revenue per engine changed over the range ¥240/$ to ¥100/$.

3. Suppose at the time of a new engine shipment, the exchange rate was ¥150/$. What was the dollar cost to Chrysler per engine? What was Mitsubishis yen revenue per engine?

Currency Collars

Suppose that GE is prepared to take some but not all of the risk associated with its Euro receivable. In this case, it could buy a currency collar, which is a contract that provides protection against currency moves outside an agreed-upon range. For example, suppose that GE is willing to accept variations in the value of its euro receivable associated with fluctuations in the euro in the range of $1.35 to $1.45. Beyond that point, however, it wants protection. With a currency collar, also known as a range forward, GE will convert its euro receivable at the following range forward rate, RF, which depends on the actual future spot rate, e1:

In effect, GE is agreeing to convert its euro proceeds at the future spot rate if that rate falls within the range $1.45 to $1.55 and at the boundary rates beyond that range. Specifically, if the future spot rate exceeds $1.55, then it will convert the euro proceeds at $1.55, giving the bank a profit on the range forward. Alternatively, if the future spot rate falls below $1.45, then GE will convert the proceeds at $1.45 and the bank suffers a loss.

Exhibit 10.9 shows that with the range forward, GE has effectively collared its exchange risk (hence the term, currency collar). Exhibit 10.9a shows the payoff profile of the euro receivable; Exhibit 10.9b shows the payoff profile for the currency collar; and Exhibit 10.9c shows the payoff profile for GE’s receivable hedged with the collar. With the collar, GE is guaranteed a minimum cash flow of 10 million X $1.45, or $14.5 million. Its maximum cash flow with the collar is $15.5 million, which it receives for any exchange rate beyond $1.55. For exchange rates within the range, it receives 10 million X (actual spot rate).

Exhibit 10.9 Currency Range Forward: GE and Lufthansa

Why would GE accept a contract that limits its upside potential? In order to lower its cost of hedging its downside risk. The cost saving can be seen by recognizing that a currency collar can be created by simultaneously buying an out-of-the-money put option and selling an out-of-the-money call option of the same size. In effect, the purchase of the put option is financed by the sale of the call option. By selling off the upside potential with the call option, GE can reduce the cost of hedging its downside risk with the put option. The payoff profile of the combined put purchase and call sale, also known as a cylinder, is shown in Exhibit 10.10. By adjusting the strike prices such that the put premium just equals the call premium, you can always create a cylinder with a zero net cost, in which case you have a range forward. In this exhibit, it is assumed that the put premium at a strike price of $1.45 just equals the call premium at a strike price of $1.55.

Exhibit 10.10 Use of a Currency Cylinder to Hedge GE’s Receivable


Hedging with futures is very similar to hedging with forward contracts. However, a firm that wants to manage its exchange risk with futures may find that the exact futures contract it requires is unavailable. In this case, it may be able to cross-hedge its exposure by using futures contracts on another currency that is correlated with the one of interest.

The idea behind cross-hedging is as follows: If we cannot find a futures/forward contract on the currency in which we have an exposure, we will hedge our exposure via a futures/forward contract on a related currency. Lacking a model or theory to tell us the exact relationship between the exchange rates of the two related currencies, we estimate the relationship by examining the historical association between these rates. The resulting regression coefficient tells us the sign and approximate size of the futures/forward position we should take in the related currency. However, the cross-hedge is only as good as the stability and economic significance of the correlation between the two currencies. A key output of the regression equation, such as the one between the Danish krone and euro, is the R2, which measures the fraction of variation in the exposed currency that is explained by variation in the hedging currency. In general, the greater the R2 of the regression of one exchange rate on the other, the better the cross-hedge will be.

Application Hedging a Danish Krone Exposure Using Euro Futures

An exporter with a receivable denominated in Danish krone will not find krone futures available. Although an exact matching futures contract is unavailable, the firm may be able to find something that comes close. The exporter can cross-hedge his Danish krone position with euro futures, as the dollar values of those currencies tend to move in unison.

Suppose it is October 15 and our exporter expects to collect a DK 5 million receivable on December 15. The exporter can always sell the Danish kroner on the spot market at that time but is concerned about a possible fall in the krone’s value between now and then. The exporter’s treasurer has copied the spot prices of the Danish krone and euro from the Wall Street Journal every day for the past three months and has estimated the following regression relationship using this information:

where Δ = et — et—1 and et is the spot rate for day t (that is, Δ is the change in the exchange rate). In addition, the R2 of the regression is 0.91, meaning that 91% of the variation in the Danish krone is explained by movements in the euro. With an R2 this high, the exporter can confidently use euro futures contracts to cross-hedge the Danish krone.

According to this relationship, a 1¢ change in the value of the euro leads to a 0.8¢ change in the value of the DK. To cross-hedge the forthcoming receipt of DK, 0.8 units of euro futures must be sold for every unit of DK to be sold on December 15. With a Danish krone exposure of DK 5 million, the exporter must sell euro futures contracts in the amount of €4 million (0.8 X 5 million). With a euro futures contract size of €125,000, this euro amount translates into 32 contracts (4 million/125,000). The example illustrates the idea that the euro futures can be used to effectively offset the risk posed by the DK receivable.

Foreign Currency Options

Thus far, we have examined how firms can hedge known foreign currency transaction exposures. Yet, in many circumstances, the firm is uncertain whether the hedged foreign currency cash inflow or outflow will materialize. For example, the previous assumption was that GE learned on January 1 that it had won a contract to supply turbine blades to Lufthansa. But suppose that although GE’s bid on the contract was submitted on January 1, the announcement of the winning bid would not be until April 1. During the three-month period from January 1 to April 1, GE does not know if it will receive a payment of €10 million on December 31. This uncertainty has important consequences for the appropriate hedging strategy.

GE would like to guarantee that the exchange rate does not move against it between the time it bids and the time it gets paid, should it win the contract. The danger of not hedging is that its bid will be selected and the euro will decline in value, possibly wiping out GE’s anticipated profit margin. For example, if the forward rate on April 1 for delivery December 31 falls to €1 = $1.30, the value of the contract will drop from $13.61 million to $13 million, for a loss in value of $610,000.

The apparent solution is for GE to sell the anticipated €10 million receivable forward on January 1. However, if GE does that and loses the bid on the contract, it still has to sell the currency—which it will have to get by buying on the open market, perhaps at a big loss. For example, suppose the forward rate on April 1 for December 31 delivery has risen to $1.402. To eliminate all currency risk on its original forward contract, GE would have to buy €10 million forward at a price of $1.402. The result would be a loss of $410,000 [(1.361 − 1.402) X 10 million] on the forward contract entered into on January 1 at a rate of $1.361.

Using Options to Hedge Bids.

Until recently, GE, or any company that bid on a contract denominated in a foreign currency and was not assured of success, would be unable to resolve its foreign exchange risk dilemma. The advent of currency options has changed all that. Specifically, the solution to managing its currency risk in this case is for GE, at the time of its bid, to purchase an option to sell €10 million on December 31. For example, suppose that on January 1, GE can buy for $100,000 the right to sell Citigroup €10 million on December 31 at a price of $1.361/€. If it enters into this put option contract with Citigroup, GE will guarantee itself a minimum price ($13.61 million) should its bid be selected, while simultaneously ensuring that if it lost the bid, its loss would be limited to the price paid for the option contract (the premium of $100,000). Should the spot price of the euro on December 31 exceed $1.361, GE would let its option contract expire unexercised and convert the €10 million at the prevailing spot rate.

Instead of a straight put option, GE could use a futures put option. This would entail GE buying a put option on a December futures contract with the option expiring in April. If the put were in-the-money on April 1, GE would exercise it and receive a short position in a euro futures contract plus a cash amount equal to the strike price minus the December futures price as of April 1. Assuming it had won the bid, GE would hold on to the December futures contract. If it had lost the bid, GE would pocket the cash and immediately close out its short futures position at no cost.

As we saw in Chapter 8, two types of options are available to manage exchange risk. A currency put option, such as the one appropriate to GE’s situation, gives the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to sell a specified number of foreign currency units to the option seller at a fixed dollar price, up to the option’s expiration date. Alternatively, a currency call option is the right, but not the obligation, to buy the foreign currency at a specified dollar price, up to the expiration date.

A call option is valuable, for example, when a firm has offered to buy a foreign asset, such as another firm, at a fixed foreign currency price but is uncertain whether its bid will be accepted. By buying a call option on the foreign currency, the firm can lock in a maximum dollar price for its tender offer, while limiting its downside risk to the call premium in the event its bid is rejected.

Application Air Products Loses Twice

In May 2000, Air Products & Chemicals Inc. announced a $300 million after-tax charge. The bulk of this charge came about from currency losses associated with the acquisition of British pounds to be used in a failed attempt to buy BOC Group PLC. After Air Products bought the pounds, the currency fell in value. According to the Wall Street Journal (May 11, 2000, p. A4), “While it would have had losses from the hedge even if it were to have acquired BOC, it would have effectively paid less as well, because of the currency’s decline.” Purchase of a call option on pounds sterling instead of its outright currency purchase would have protected Air Products from the currency losses on its failed acquisition.

Using Options to Hedge Other Currency Risks.

Currency options are a valuable risk management tool in other situations as well. Conventional transaction-exposure management says you wait until your sales are booked or your orders are placed before hedging them. If a company does that, however, it faces potential losses from exchange rate movements because the foreign currency price does not necessarily adjust right away to changes in the value of the dollar. As a matter of policy, to avoid confusing customers and salespeople, most companies do not change their price list every time the exchange rate changes. Unless and until the foreign currency price changes, the unhedged company may suffer a decrease in its profit margin. Because of the uncertainty of anticipated sales or purchases, however, forward contracts are an imperfect tool to hedge the exposure.

For example, a company that commits to a foreign currency price list for, say, three months has a foreign currency exposure that depends on the unknown volume of sales at those prices during this period. Thus, the company does not know what volume of forward contracts to enter into to protect its profit margin on these sales. For the price of the premium, currency put options allow the company to insure its profit margin against adverse movements in the foreign currency while guaranteeing fixed prices to foreign customers. Without options, the firm might be forced to raise its foreign currency prices sooner than the competitive situation warranted.

Application Hewlett-Packard Uses Currency Options to Protect Its Profit Margins

Hewlett-Packard (H-P), the California-based computer firm, uses currency options to protect its dollar profit margins on products built in the United States but sold in Europe. The firm needs to be able to lower LC prices if the dollar weakens and hold LC prices steady for about three months (the price adjustment period) if the dollar strengthens.

Suppose H-P sells anticipated euro sales forward at €1/$ to lock in a dollar value for those sales. If one month later the dollar weakens to €0.80/$, H-P faces tremendous competitive pressure to lower its euro prices. H-P would be locked into a loss on the forward contracts that would not be offset by a gain on its sales because it had to cut euro prices. With euro put options, H-P would just let them expire, and it would lose only the put premium. Conversely, options help H-P delay LC price increases when the dollar strengthens until it can raise them without suffering a competitive disadvantage. The reduced profit margin on local sales is offset by the gain on the put option.

Currency options also can be used to hedge exposure to shifts in a competitor’s currency. Companies competing with firms from other nations may find their products at a price disadvantage if a major competitor’s currency weakens, allowing the competitor to reduce its prices. Thus, the company will be exposed to fluctuations in the competitor’s currency even if it has no sales in that currency. For example, a Swiss engine manufacturer selling in Germany will be placed at a competitive disadvantage if dollar depreciation allows its principal competitor, located in the United States, to sell at a lower price in Germany. Purchasing out-of-the-money put options on the dollar and selling them for a profit if they move into the money (which will happen if the dollar depreciates enough) will allow the Swiss firm to partly compensate for its lost competitiveness. The exposure is not contractually set, so forward contracts are again not as useful as options in this situation.

Options versus Forward Contracts.

The ideal use of forward contracts is when the exposure has a straight risk-reward profile: Forward contract gains or losses are exactly offset by losses or gains on the underlying transaction. If the transaction exposure is uncertain, however, because the volume or the foreign currency prices of the items being bought or sold are unknown, a forward contract will not match it. By contrast, currency options are a good hedging tool in situations in which the quantity of foreign exchange to be received or paid out is uncertain.

Application How Cadbury Schweppes Uses Currency Options

Cadbury Schweppes, the British candy manufacturer, uses currency options to hedge uncertain payables. The price of its key product input, cocoa, is quoted in sterling but is really a dollar-based product. That is, as the value of the dollar changes, the sterling price of cocoa changes as well. The objective of the company’s foreign exchange strategy is to eliminate the currency element in the decision to purchase the commodity, thus leaving the company’s buyers able to concentrate on fundamentals. However, this task is complicated by the fact that the company’s projections of its future purchases are highly uncertain.

As a result, Cadbury Schweppes has turned to currency options. After netting its total exposure, the company covers with forward contracts a base number of exposed, known payables. It covers the remaining—uncertain—portion with options. The options act as an insurance policy.

A company could use currency options to hedge its exposure in lieu of forward contracts. However, each type of hedging instrument is more advantageous in some situations, and it makes sense to match the instrument to the specific situation. The three general rules to follow when choosing between currency options and forward contracts for hedging purposes are summarized as follows:

1. When the quantity of a foreign currency cash outflow is known, buy the currency forward; when the quantity is unknown, buy a call option on the currency

2. When the quantity of a foreign currency cash inflow is known, sell the currency forward; when the quantity is unknown, buy a put option on the currency.

3. When the quantity of a foreign currency cash flow is partially known and partially uncertain, use a forward contract to hedge the known portion and an option to hedge the maximum value of the uncertain remainder.9

These rules presume that the financial manager’s objective is to reduce risk and not to speculate on the direction or volatility of future currency movements. They also presume that both forward and options contracts are fairly priced. In an efficient market, the expected value or cost of either of these contracts should be zero. Any other result would introduce the possibility of arbitrage profits. The presence of such profits would attract arbitrageurs as surely as bees are attracted to honey. Their subsequent attempts to profit from inappropriate prices would return these prices to their equilibrium values.

Mini-Case Help DKNY Cover Up Its Mexican Peso Transaction Exposure

DKNY, the apparel design firm, owes Mex$7 million in 30 days for a recent shipment of textiles from Mexico. DKNY’s treasurer is considering hedging the company’s peso exposure on this shipment and is looking for some help in figuring out what her different hedging options might cost and which option is preferable. You call up your favorite foreign exchange trader and receive the following interest rate and exchange rate quotes:

Spot rate:


Forward rate (30 days):


30-day put option on dollars at Mex$12.9/$:

1% premium

30-day call option on dollars at Mex$13.1/$:

3% premium

U.S. dollar 30-day interest rate (annualized):


Peso 30-day interest rate (annualized):


Based on these quotes, the treasurer presents you with a series of questions that she would like you to address.


1. What hedging options are available to DKNY?

2. What is the hedged cost of DKNY’s payable using a forward market hedge?

3. What is the hedged cost of DKNY’s payable using a money market hedge?

4. What is the hedged cost of DKNY’s payable using a put option?

5. At what exchange rate is the cost of the put option just equal to the cost of the forward market hedge? To the cost of the money market hedge?

6. How can DKNY construct a currency collar? What is the net premium paid for the currency collar? Using this currency collar, what is the net dollar cost of the payable if the spot rate in 30 days is Mex$12.8/$? Mex$13.1/$? Mex$13.4/$?

7. What is the preferred alternative?

8. Suppose that DKNY expects the 30-day spot rate to be Mex$13.4/$. Should it hedge this payable? What other factors should go into DKNY’s hedging decision?

9 For elaboration, see Ian H. Giddy, “The Foreign Exchange Option as a Hedging Tool,” Midland Corporate Finance Journal, Fall 1983, pp. 32-42.

10.7 Summary and Conclusions

In this chapter, we examined the concept of exposure to exchange rate changes from the perspective of the accountant. The accountant’s concern is the appropriate way to translate foreign-currency-denominated items on financial statements to their home currency values. If currency values change, translation gains or losses may result. We surveyed the four principal translation methods available: the current/noncurrent method, the monetary/nonmonetary method, the temporal method, and the current rate method. In addition, we analyzed the present translation method mandated by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, FASB-52.

Regardless of the translation method selected, measuring accounting exposure is conceptually the same. It involves determining which foreign-currency-denominated assets and liabilities will be translated at the current (postchange) exchange rate and which will be translated at the historical (prechange) exchange rate. The former items are considered to be exposed, whereas the latter items are regarded as not exposed. Translation exposure is simply the difference between exposed assets and exposed liabilities.

Hedging this exposure is a complicated and difficult task. As a first step, the firm must specify an operational set of goals for those involved in exchange risk management. Failure to do so can lead to possibly conflicting and costly actions on the part of employees. We saw that the hedging objective that is most consistent with the overarching objective of maximizing shareholder value is to reduce exchange risk, when exchange risk is defined as that element of cash-flow variability attributable to currency fluctuations. This objective translates into the following exposure management goal: to arrange a firm’s financial affairs in such a way that however the exchange rate may move in the future, the effects on dollar returns are minimized.

We saw that firms normally cope with anticipated currency changes by engaging in forward contracts, borrowing locally, and adjusting their pricing and credit policies. However, there is reason to question the value of much of this activity. In fact, in normal circumstances, hedging cannot provide protection against expected exchange rate changes.

A number of empirical studies indicate that on average the forward rate appears to be an unbiased estimate of the future spot rate. On the other hand, the evidence also points to the possibility of bias in the forward rate at any point in time. However, trying to take advantage of this apparent bias via selective hedging is likely to expose the company to increased risk.

Furthermore, according to the international Fisher effect, in the absence of government controls, interest rate differentials among countries should equal anticipated currency devaluations or revaluations. Empirical research substantiates the notion that over time, gains or losses on debt in hard currencies tend to be offset by low interest rates; in soft currencies, they will be offset by higher interest rates unless, of course, there are barriers that preclude equalization of real interest rates. Again, to the extent that bias exists in the interest rate differential—because of a risk premium or other factor—the risk associated with selective hedging is likely to offset any expected gains.

The other hedging methods, which involve factoring anticipated exchange rate changes into pricing and credit decisions, can be profitable only at the expense of others. Thus, to consistently gain by these trade-term adjustments, it is necessary to deal continuously with less-knowledgeable people. Certainly, however, a policy predicated on the continued existence of naive firms is unlikely to be viable for very long in the highly competitive and well-informed world of international business. The real value to a firm of factoring currency change expectations into its pricing and credit decisions is to prevent others from profiting at its expense.

The basic value of hedging, therefore, is to protect a company against unexpected exchange rate changes; however, by definition, these changes are unpredictable and, consequently, impossible to profit from. To the extent that a government does not permit interest or forward rates to fully adjust to market expectations, a firm with access to these financial instruments can expect, on average, to gain from currency changes. Nevertheless, the very nature of these imperfections severely restricts a company’s ability to engage in such profitable financial operations.


1. What is translation exposure? Transaction exposure?

2. What are the basic translation methods? How do they differ?

3. What factors affect a company’s translation exposure? What can the company do to affect its degree of translation exposure?

4. What alternative hedging transactions are available to a company seeking to hedge the translation exposure of its German subsidiary? How would the appropriate hedge change if the German affiliate’s functional currency were the U.S. dollar?

5. In order to eliminate all risk on its exports to Japan, a company decides to hedge both its actual and anticipated sales there. To what risk is the company exposing itself? How could this risk be managed?

6. Instead of its previous policy of always hedging its foreign currency receivables, Sun Microsystems has decided to hedge only when it believes the dollar will strengthen. Otherwise, it will go uncovered. Comment on this new policy.

7. Your bank is working with an American client who wishes to hedge its long exposure in the Malaysian ringgit. Suppose it is possible to invest in ringgit but not borrow in that currency. However, you can both borrow and lend in U.S. dollars.

a. Assuming there is no forward market in ringgit, can you create a homemade forward contract that would allow your client to hedge its ringgit exposure?

b. Several of your Malaysian clients are interested in selling their U.S. dollar export earnings forward for ringgit. Can you accommodate them by creating a forward contract?

8. Eastman Kodak gives its traders bonuses if their selective hedging strategies are less expensive than the cost of hedging all their transaction exposure on a continuous basis. What problems can you foresee from this bonus plan?

9. Many managers prefer to use options to hedge their exposure because it allows them the possibility of capitalizing on favorable movements in the exchange rate. In contrast, a company using forward contracts avoids the downside but also loses the upside potential as well. Comment on this strategy.

10. In January 1988, Arco bought a 24.3% stake in the British oil firm Britoil PLC. It intended to buy a further $1 billion worth of Britoil stock if Britoil were agreeable. However, Arco was uncertain whether Britoil, which had expressed a strong desire to remain independent, would accept its bid. To guard against the possibility of a pound appreciation in the interim, Arco decided to convert $1 billion into pounds and place them on deposit in London, pending the outcome of its discussions with Britoil’s management. What exchange risk did Arco face, and did it choose the best way to protect itself from that risk?

11. Sumitomo Chemical of Japan has one week in which to negotiate a contract to supply products to a U.S. company at a dollar price that will remain fixed for one year. What advice would you give Sumitomo?

12. U.S. Farm-Raised Fish Trading Co., a catfish concern in Jackson, Mississippi, tells its Japanese customers that it wants to be paid in dollars. According to its director of export marketing, this simple strategy eliminates all its currency risk. Is he right? Why?

13. The Montreal Expos are a major-league baseball team located in Montreal, Canada. What currency risk is faced by the Expos, and how can this exchange risk be managed?

14. General Electric recently had to put together a $50 million bid, denominated in Swiss francs, to upgrade a Swiss power plant. If it won, GE expected to pay subcontractors and suppliers in five currencies. The payment schedule for the contract stretched over a five-year period.

a. How should General Electric establish the Swiss franc price of its $50 million bid?

b. What exposure does GE face on this bid? How can it hedge that exposure?

15. Dell Computer produces its machines in Asia with components largely imported from the United States and sells its products in various Asian nations in local currencies.

a. What is the likely impact on Dell’s Asian profits of a strengthened dollar? Explain.

b. What hedging technique(s) can Dell employ to lock in a desired currency conversion rate for its Asian sales during the next year?

c. Suppose Dell wishes to lock in a specific conversion rate but does not want to foreclose the possibility of profiting from future currency moves. What hedging technique would be most likely to achieve this objective?

d. What are the limits of Dell’s hedging approach?


1. Suppose that at the start and at the end of the year, Bell U.K., the British subsidiary of Bell U.S., has current assets of £1 million, fixed assets of £2 million, and current liabilities of £1 million. Bell has no long-term liabilities.

a. What is Bell U.K.’s translation exposure under the current/noncurrent, monetary/nonmonetary, temporal, and current rate methods?

b. Assuming the pound is the functional currency, if the pound depreciates during the year from $1.50 to $1.30, what will be the FASB-52 translation gain (loss) to be included in the equity account of Bell’s U.S. parent?

c. Redo Part b assuming the dollar is the functional currency. Included in current assets is inventory of £0.5 million. The historical exchange rates for inventory and fixed assets are $1.45 and $1.65, respectively. If the dollar is the functional currency, where does Bell U.K.’s translation gain or loss show up on Bell U.S.’s financial statements?

2. Rolls-Royce, the British jet engine manufacturer, sells engines to U.S. airlines and buys parts from U.S. companies. Suppose it has accounts receivable of $1.5 billion and accounts payable of $740 million. It also has borrowed $600 million. The current spot rate is $1.5128/£.

a. What is Rolls-Royce’s dollar transaction exposure in dollar terms? In pound terms?

b. Suppose the pound appreciates to $1.7642/£. What is Rolls-Royce’s gain or loss, in pound terms, on its dollar transaction exposure?

3. Zapata Auto Parts, the Mexican affiliate of American Diversified, Inc., had the following balance sheet on January 1:

Assets (Mex$ Millions)

Liabilities (Mex$ Millions)

Cash, marketable securities


Current liabilities


Accounts receivable


Long-term debt






Net fixed assets


Total assets


Liabilities plus equity


The exchange rate on January 1 was Mex $8,000 = $1.

a. What is Zapata’s FASB-52 peso translation exposure on January 1?

b. Suppose the exchange rate on December 31 is Mex$12,000. What will be Zapata’s translation loss for the year?

c. Zapata can borrow an additional Mex$15,000 (in millions). What will happen to its translation exposure if it uses the funds to pay a dividend to its parent? If it uses the funds to increase its cash position?

4. Walt Disney expects to receive a Mex$16 million theatrical fee from Mexico in 90 days. The current spot rate is $0.1321/Mex$, and the 90-day forward rate is $0.1242/Mex$.

a. What is Disney’s peso transaction exposure associated with this fee?

b. If the spot rate expected in 90 days is $0.1305, what is the expected U.S. dollar value of the fee?

c. What is the hedged dollar value of the fee?

d. What factors will influence the hedging decision?

5. A foreign exchange trader assesses the euro exchange rate three months hence as follows:

$1.11 with probability 0.25

$1.13 with probability 0.50

$1.15 with probability 0.25

The 90-day forward rate is $0.12.

a. Will the trader buy or sell euros forward against the dollar if she is concerned solely with expected values? In what volume?

b. In reality, what is likely to limit the trader’s speculative activities?

c. Suppose the trader revises her probability assessment as follows:

$1.09 with probability 0.33

$1.13 with probability 0.33

$1.17 with probability 0.33

If the forward rate remains at $1.12, will this new assessment affect the trader’s decision? Explain.

6. An investment manager hedges a portfolio of Bunds (German government bonds) with a six-month forward contract. The current spot rate is €0.84/$, and the 180-day forward rate is €0.81/$. At the end of the six-month period, the Bunds have risen in value by 3.75% (in euro terms), and the spot rate is now €0.76/$.

a. If the Bunds earn interest at the annual rate of 5%, paid semiannually, what is the investment manager’s total dollar return on the hedged Bunds?

b. What would the return on the Bunds have been without hedging?

c. What was the true cost of the forward contract?

7. Magnetronics, Inc., a U.S. company, owes its Taiwanese supplier NT$205 million in three months. The company wishes to hedge its NT$ payable. The current spot rate is NT$1 = U.S.$0.03987, and the three-month forward rate is NT$1 = U.S.$0.04051. Magnetronics can also borrow or lend U.S. dollars at an annualized interest rate of 12% and Taiwanese dollars at an annualized interest rate of 8%.

a. What is the U.S. dollar accounting entry for this payable?

b. What is the minimum U.S. dollar cost that Magnetronics can lock in for this payable? Describe the procedure it would use to get this price.

c. At what forward rate would interest rate parity hold given the interest rates?

8. Cooper Inc., a U.S. firm, has just invested £500,000 in a note that will come due in 90 days and is yielding 9.5% annualized. The current spot value of the pound is $1.5612, and the 90-day forward rate is $1.5467.

a. What is the hedged dollar value of this note at maturity?

b. What is the annualized dollar yield on the hedged note?

c. Cooper anticipates that the value of the pound in 90 days will be $1.5550. Should it hedge? Why or why not?

d. Suppose that Cooper has a payable of £980,000 coming due in 180 days. Should this affect its decision of whether to hedge its sterling note? How and why?

9. American Airlines is trying to decide how to go about hedging SFr70 million in ticket sales receivable in 180 days. Suppose it faces the following exchange and interest rates.

Spot rate:


Forward rate (180 days):


Swiss Franc 180-day interest rate (annualized):


U.S. dollar 180-day interest rate (annualized):


a. What is the hedged value of American’s ticket sales using a forward market hedge?

b. What is the hedged value of American’s ticket sales using a money market hedge? Assume the first interest rate is the rate at which money can be borrowed and the second one the rate at which it can be lent.

c. Which hedge is less expensive?

d. Is there an arbitrage opportunity here?

e. Suppose the expected spot rate in 180 days is $0.67/SFr, with a most likely range of $0.64 to $0.70/SFr. Should American hedge? What factors should enter into its decision?

10. Madison Inc. imports olive oil from Chilean firms, and the invoices are always denominated in pesos (Ch$). It currently has a payable in the amount of Ch$250 million that it would like to hedge. Unfortunately, there are no peso futures contracts available and Madison is having difficulty arranging a peso forward contract. Its treasurer, who recently received his MBA, suggests using the Brazilian real (R) to cross-hedge the peso exposure. He recently ran the following regression of the change in the exchange rate for the peso against the change in the real exchange rate:

a. There is an active market in the forward real. To cross-hedge Madison’s peso exposure, should the treasurer buy or sell the real forward?

b. What is the risk-minimizing amount of reais that the treasurer would have to buy or sell forward to hedge Madison’s peso exposure?

Web Resources Web site of the Financial Accounting Standards Board. Provides information on FASB 52 and other FASB pronouncements on currency translation and hedge accounting. Web site that contains material discussing currency risk management. Web site that contains links to annual reports of more than 2,200 companies, many of which are multinationals.

Web Exercises

1. Go to General Electric’s home page ( and find its latest annual report. What is General Electric’s accumulated translation adjustment? Does General Electric use any functional currencies other than the dollar? What was GE’s reported currency translation gain or loss during the year? What exchange rates (year-end or average) did GE use to translate its asset and liability accounts and revenue and expense items?

2. What are the latest FASB pronouncements dealing with currency translations?

3. Review the annual reports on the Web sites of three of the multinational companies listed in

a. Which types of currency exposure are these companies hedging?

b. Which hedging techniques are they using?

c. Which hedging strategy (if any) appears to underlie their hedging activities?


Bishop, Matthew. “A Survey of Corporate Risk Management.” The Economist, February 10, 1996, special section.

Cornell, Bradford, and Alan C. Shapiro. “Managing Foreign Exchange Risks.” Midland Corporate Finance Journal, Fall 1983, pp. 16-31.

Dufey, Gunter, and Sam L. Srinivasulu. “The Case for Corporate Management of Foreign Exchange Risk.” Financial Management, Summer 1984, pp. 54-62.

Evans, Thomas G., and William R. Folks, Jr. “Defining Objectives for Exposure Management.” Business International Money Report, February 2, 1979, pp. 37-39.

Folks, William R., Jr. “Decision Analysis for Exchange Risk Management.” Financial Management, Winter 1972, pp. 101-112.

Giddy, Ian H. “The Foreign Exchange Option as a Hedging Tool.” Midland Corporate Finance Journal, Fall 1983, pp. 32-42.

Goeltz, Richard K. Managing Liquid Funds on an International Scope. New York: Joseph E. Seagram and Sons, 1971.

Shapiro, Alan C., and David P Rutenberg. “Managing Exchange Risks in a Floating World.” Financial Management, Summer1976, pp. 48-58.

Srinivasulu, Sam, and Edward Massura. “Sharing Currency Risks in Long-Term Contracts.” Business International Money Reports, February 23, 1987, pp. 57-59.

Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 52. Stamford, Conn.: Financial Accounting Standards Board, December1981.

Zenoff, David B. “Applying Management Principles to Foreign Exchange Exposure.” Euromoney, September 1978, pp. 123-130.

Appendix 10A

Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 52

The current translation standard—Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 52 (FASB 52)—was adopted in 1981.10 According to FASB-52, firms must use the current rate method to translate foreign-currency-denominated assets and liabilities into dollars. All foreign currency revenue and expense items on the income statement must be translated at either the exchange rate in effect on the date these items are recognized or at an appropriately weighted average exchange rate for the period. The most important aspect of this standard is that most FASB-52 translation gains and losses bypass the income statement and are accumulated in a separate equity account on the parent’s balance sheet. This account is usually called something like “cumulative translation adjustment.”

FASB 52 differentiates between the functional currency and the reporting currency. An affiliate’s functional currency is the currency of the primary economic environment in which the affiliate generates and expends cash. If the enterprise’s operations are relatively self-contained and integrated within a particular country, the functional currency will generally be the currency of that country. An example of this would be an English affiliate that both manufactures and sells most of its output in England. Alternatively, if the foreign affiliate’s operations are a direct and integral component or extension of the parent company’s operations, the functional currency will be the U.S. dollar. An example of this would be a Hong Kong assembly plant for radios that sources the components in the United States and sells the assembled radios in the United States. It is also possible that the functional currency is neither the local currency nor the dollar but, rather, a third currency. However, in the remainder of this appendix, we will assume that if the functional currency is not the local currency, then it is the U.S. dollar.

Guidelines for selecting the appropriate functional currency are presented in Exhibit 10A.1. There is sufficient ambiguity to give companies some leeway in selecting the functional currency. However, in the case of a hyperinflationary country—defined as one that has cumulative inflation of approximately 100% or more over a three-year period—the functional currency must be the dollar.

EXHIBIT 10A.1 Factors Indicating the Appropriate Functional Currency

Companies will usually explain in the notes to their annual report how they accounted for foreign currency translation. A typical statement is that found in Dow Chemical’s 1999 Annual Report:

The local currency has been primarily used as the functional currency throughout the world. Translation gains and losses of those operations that use local currency as the functional currency, and the effects of exchange rate changes on transactions designated as hedges of net foreign investments, are included in “Accumulated other comprehensive income.” Where the U.S. dollar is used as the functional currency, foreign currency gains and losses are reflected in income.

The reporting currency is the currency in which the parent firm prepares its own financial statements—that is, U.S. dollars for a U.S. firm. FASB 52 requires that the financial statements of a foreign unit first be stated in the functional currency, using generally accepted accounting principles of the United States. At each balance sheet date, any assets and liabilities denominated in a currency other than the functional currency of the recording entity must be adjusted to reflect the current exchange rate on that date. Transaction gains and losses that result from adjusting assets and liabilities denominated in a currency other than the functional currency, or from settling such items, generally must appear on the foreign unit’s income statement. The only exceptions to the general requirement to include transaction gains and losses in income as they arise are listed as follows:

1. Gains and losses attributable to a foreign currency transaction that is designated as an economic hedge of a net investment in a foreign entity must be included in the separate component of shareholders’ equity in which adjustments arising from translating foreign currency financial statements are accumulated. An example of such a transaction would be a euro borrowing by a U.S. parent. The transaction would be designated as a hedge of the parent’s net investment in its German subsidiary.

2. Gains and losses attributable to intercompany foreign currency transactions that are of a long-term investment nature must be included in the separate component of shareholders’ equity. The parties to the transaction in this case are accounted for by the equity method in the reporting entity’s financial statements.

3. Gains and losses attributable to foreign currency transactions that hedge identifiable foreign currency commitments are to be deferred and included in the measurement of the basis of the related foreign transactions.

The requirements regarding translation of transactions apply both to transactions entered into by a U.S. company and denominated in a currency other than the U.S. dollar and to transactions entered into by a foreign affiliate of a U.S. company and denominated in a currency other than its functional currency. Thus, for example, if a German subsidiary of a U.S. company owed $180,000 and the euro declined from $1.20 to $1.00, the euro amount of the liability would increase from €150,000 (180,000/1.20) to €180,000 (180,000/1.00), for a loss of €30,000. If the subsidiary’s functional currency is the euro, the €30,000 loss must be translated into dollars at the average exchange rate for the period (say, $1.10), and the resulting amount ($33,000) must be included as a transaction loss in the U.S. company’s consolidated statement of income. This loss results even though the liability is denominated in the parent company’s reporting currency because the subsidiary’s functional currency is the euro, and its financial statements must be measured in terms of that currency. Similarly, under FASB 52, if the subsidiary’s functional currency is the U.S. dollar, no gain or loss will arise on the $180,000 liability.

After all financial statements have been converted into the functional currency, the functional currency statements are then translated into dollars, with translation gains and losses flowing directly into the parent’s foreign exchange equity account.

If the functional currency is the dollar, the unit’s local currency financial statements must be remeasured in dollars. The objective of the remeasurement process is to produce the same results that would have been reported if the accounting records had been kept in dollars rather than the local currency. Translation of the local currency accounts into dollars takes place according to the temporal method; thus, the resulting translation gains and losses must be included in the income statement.

A large majority of firms have opted for the local currency as the functional currency for most of their subsidiaries. The major exceptions are those subsidiaries operating in Latin American and other highly inflationary countries; they must use the dollar as their functional currency.

10 The previous translation standard, Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 8 (or FASB 8), was based on the temporal method. Its principal virtue was its consistency with generally accepted accounting practice that requires balance sheet items to be valued (translated) according to their underlying measurement basis (i.e. current or historical). Almost immediately upon its adoption, however, controversy ensued over FASB 8. A major source of corporate dissatisfaction with FASB 8 was the ruling that all reserves for currency losses be disallowed. Before FASB 8, many companies established a reserve and were able to defer unrealized translation gains and losses by adding them to, or charging them against, the reserve. In that way, corporations generally were able to cushion the impact of sharp changes in currency values on reported earnings. With FASB 8, however, fluctuating values of pesos, pounds, yen, Canadian dollars, and other foreign currencies often had far more impact on profit-and-loss statements than did the sales and profit margins of multinational manufacturers’ product lines.

Application of FASB No. 52

Sterling Ltd., the British subsidiary of a U.S. company, started business and acquired fixed assets at the beginning of a year when the exchange rate for the pound sterling was £1=$1.50. The average exchange rate for the period was $1.40, the rate at the end of the period was $1.30, and the historical rate for inventory was $1.45. Refer to Exhibits 10A.2 and 10A.3 for the discussion that follows.

During the year, Sterling Ltd., has after-tax income of £20 million, which goes into retained earnings—that is, no dividends are paid. Thus, retained earnings rise from 0 to £20 million. Exhibit 10A.2 shows how the income statement would be translated into dollars under two alternatives: (1) The functional currency is the pound sterling and (2) the functional currency is the U.S. dollar.

If the functional currency is the pound sterling, Sterling Ltd. will have a translation loss of $22 million, which bypasses the income statement (because the functional currency is identical to the local currency) and appears on the balance sheet as a separate item called cumulative translation adjustment under the stockholders’ equity account. The translation loss is calculated as the number that reconciles the equity account with the remaining translated accounts to balance assets with liabilities and equity. Exhibit 10A.3 shows the balance sheet translations for Sterling Ltd. under the two alternative functional currencies.

Similarly, if the dollar is the functional currency, the foreign exchange translation gain of $108 million, which appears on Sterling Ltd.’s income statement (because the functional currency differs from the local currency), is calculated as the difference between translated income before currency gains ($23 million) and the retained earnings figure ($131 million). This amount just balances Sterling Ltd.’s books.

Two comments are appropriate here.

1. Fluctuations in reported earnings in the preceding example are reduced significantly under FASB 52 when the local currency is the functional currency, as compared with the case when the U.S. dollar is the functional currency.

2. Key financial ratios and relationships—such as net income-to-revenue, gross profit, and debt-to-equity—are the same when translated into dollars under FASB 52, using the local currency as the functional currency, as they are in the local currency financial statements. These ratios and relationships are significantly different if the dollar is used as the functional currency. The ratios appear at the bottom of Exhibit 10A.2.

EXHIBIT 10A.2 Translation of Sterling Ltd.’s Income Statement under FASB-52 (Millions)

EXHIBIT 10A.3 Translation of Sterling Ltd.’s Balance Sheet under FASB-52 (Millions)

(Shapiro 354)

Shapiro. Multinational Financial Management, 9th Edition. John Wiley & Sons. <vbk:9780470894385#outline(10)>.

CHAPTER 11 Measuring and Managing Economic Exposure

Let’s face it. If you’ve got 75% of your assets in the U.S. and 50% of your sales outside it, and the dollar’s strong, you’ve got problems.

Donald V. Fites

Executive Vice President Caterpillar Inc.


• To define economic exposure and exchange risk and distinguish between the two

• To define operating exposure and distinguish between it and transaction exposure

• To identify the basic factors that determine the foreign exchange risk faced by a particular company or project

• To calculate economic exposure given a particular exchange rate change and specific cost and revenue scenarios

• To describe the marketing, production, and financial strategies that are appropriate for coping with the economic consequences of exchange rate changes

• To explain how companies can develop contingency plans to cope with exchange risk and the consequences of their ability to rapidly respond to currency changes

• To identify the role of the financial executive in facilitating the operation of an integrated exchange risk management program


competitive exposure

currency of denomination

currency of determination

differentiated products

economic exposure

exchange risk

flow-back effect

market selection

operating exposure


plant location

price elasticity of demand

pricing flexibility

pricing strategy

product cycles

product innovation

production shifting

product sourcing

product strategy

real exchange rate

transaction exposure

Chapter 10 focused on the accounting effects of currency changes. As we saw in that chapter, the adoption of FASB-52 has helped to moderate the wild swings in the translated earnings of overseas subsidiaries. Nevertheless, the problem of coping with volatile currencies remains essentially unchanged. Fluctuations in exchange rates will continue to have “real” effects on the cash profitability of foreign subsidiaries—complicating overseas selling, pricing, buying, and plant-location decisions.

This chapter develops an appropriate definition of foreign exchange risk. It discusses the economic, as distinguished from the accounting, consequences of currency changes on a firm’s value and shows how economic exposure can be measured. This chapter also discusses the marketing, production, and financial management strategies that are appropriate for coping with the economic consequences of exchange rate changes.

11.1 Foreign Exchange Risk and Economic Exposure

The most important aspect of foreign exchange risk management is to incorporate currency change expectations into all basic corporate decisions. In performing this task, the firm must know what is at risk. However, there is a major discrepancy between accounting practice and economic reality in terms of measuring exposure, which is the degree to which a company is affected by exchange rate changes.

As we saw in Chapter 10, those who use an accounting definition of exposure—whether FASB-52 or some other method—divide the balance sheet’s assets and liabilities into those accounts that will be affected by exchange rate changes and those that will not. In contrast, economic theory focuses on the impact of an exchange rate change on future cash flows. That is, economic exposure is based on the extent to which the value of the firm—as measured by the present value (PV) of its expected future cash flows—will change when exchange rates change.

Specifically, if PV is the present value of a firm, then that firm is exposed to currency risk if APV/Ae is not equal to zero, where APV is the change in the firm’s present value associated with an exchange rate change, Δe. Exchange risk, in turn, is defined as the variability in the firm’s value that is caused by uncertain exchange rate changes. Thus, exchange risk is viewed as the possibility that currency fluctuations can alter the expected amounts or variability of the firm’s future cash flows.

Economic exposure can be separated into two components: transaction exposure and operating exposure. We saw that transaction exposure stems from exchange gains or losses on foreign-currency-denominated contractual obligations. Although transaction exposure is often included under accounting exposure, as it was in Chapter 10, it is more properly a cash-flow exposure and, hence, part of economic exposure. However, even if the company prices all contracts in dollars or otherwise hedges its transaction exposure, the residual exposure—longer-term operating exposure—still remains.

Operating exposure arises because currency fluctuations can alter a company’s future revenues and costs—that is, its operating cash flows. Consequently, measuring a firm’s operating exposure requires a longer-term perspective, viewing the firm as an ongoing concern with operations whose cost and price competitiveness could be affected by exchange rate changes.

Thus, the firm faces operating exposure the moment it invests in servicing a market subject to foreign competition or in sourcing goods or inputs abroad. This investment includes new-product development, a distribution network, foreign supply contracts, or production facilities. Transaction exposure arises later on and only if the company’s commitments lead it to engage in foreign-currency-denominated sales or purchases. Exhibit 11.1 shows the time pattern of economic exposure.

Exhibit 11.1 The Time Pattern of Economic Exposure

Application American Filmmakers Suffer When the Euro Slumps

According to a story in the Wall Street Journal (May 19, 2000, p. B1), “The euro’s plunge against the dollar is casting a pall over this year’s Cannes Film Festival, forcing European distributors to curtail their purchases of American films and triggering concessions by U.S. producers of a sort once unheard of in this glitzy resort.” The euro’s decline by 24% against the dollar is a problem for European distributors because the international movie business is priced almost exclusively in dollars; it is a problem for U.S. producers because Europe is such a big market for American films. Before a film goes into production, a studio will usually “presell” the foreign rights to distributors and use these presale revenues to finance the film’s production. The presale of rights to continental European distribution often accounts for about a third of a film’s budget. The rise in the value of the dollar has hurt the prices that U.S. producers can get for these rights. At the same time, the higher euro prices for these rights has caused European distributors to seek better financing terms, such as stretching out payment for their acquired rights. Although some U.S. producers have talked about switching to pricing their rights in euros, the problem of a fallen euro would still remain: If the euro price is set at a level that yields the same dollar price, European distributors will face the same higher cost; if it is set at the same euro price as in the past, the U.S. producer will receive fewer dollars.

Application European Manufacturers Suffer When the Euro Soars

At the beginning of 2002, the euro was about $0.86. By mid-2003, it had soared to $1.15, a rise of more than 33%. European manufacturers suffered a profit squeeze on their exports as well as on goods competing against American imports. Consider, for example, the problems facing Head NV, the Dutch sporting-goods maker. The immediate impact of euro appreciation is to make dollar sales less valuable when converted into euros. For example, a tennis racket it might sell in the United States for $50 would bring back €58.14 when the euro was at $0.86 (50/0.86) but would translate into only €43.48 at an exchange rate of $1.15 (50/1.15). With Head’s costs set in euros, the result of euro appreciation is severe margin pressure on its U.S. exports. If Head decides to raise its dollar prices to improve its euro profit margin, it will lose export sales. European companies also face greater competitive pressure in their home markets as well as in third-country markets from U.S. companies selling in those markets. The reason: Given the large jump in the euro’s value, U.S. exporters can offer foreign customers lower prices expressed in euros, while still maintaining or improving their dollar profit margins.

Real Exchange Rate Changes and Exchange Risk

The exchange rate changes that give rise to operating exposure are real exchange rate changes. As presented in Chapter 4, the real exchange rate is defined as the nominal exchange rate (e.g., the number of dollars per franc) adjusted for changes in the relative purchasing power of each currency since some base period. Specifically,


e’t = the real exchange rate (home currency per one unit of foreign currency) at time t

et = the nominal exchange rate (home currency per one unit of foreign currency) at time t

if,t = the amount of foreign inflation between times 0 and t

ih t = the amount of domestic inflation between times 0 and t

Given that the base period nominal rate, e0, is also the real base period exchange rate, the change in the real exchange rate can be computed as follows:

For example, suppose the Danish krone has devalued by 5% during the year. At the same time, Danish and U.S. inflation rates were 3% and 2%, respectively. Then, according to Equation 11.1, if e0 is the exchange rate (dollar value of the krone) at the beginning of the year, the real exchange rate for the krone at year’s end is

Applying Equation 11.2, we can see that the real value of the krone has declined by 4% during the year:

In effect, the krone’s 5% nominal devaluation more than offset the 1% inflation differential between Denmark and the United States, leading to a 4% decline in the real value of the krone.

Importance of the Real Exchange Rate

The distinction between the nominal exchange rate and the real exchange rate is important because of their vastly different implications for exchange risk. A dramatic change in the nominal exchange rate accompanied by an equal change in the price level should have no effects on the relative competitive positions of domestic firms and their foreign competitors and, therefore, will not alter real cash flows. Alternatively, if the real exchange rate changes, it will cause relative price changes—changes in the ratio of domestic goods’ prices to prices of foreign goods. In terms of currency changes affecting relative competitiveness, therefore, the focus must be not on nominal exchange rate changes, but instead on changes in the purchasing power of one currency relative to another. Put another way, it is impossible to assess the effects of an exchange rate change without simultaneously considering the impact on cash flows of the underlying relative rates of inflation associated with each currency.

Inflation and Exchange Risk

Let us begin by holding relative prices constant and looking only at the effects of general inflation. This condition means that if the inflation rate is, say, 10%, the price of every good in the economy rises by 10%. In addition, we will initially assume that all goods are traded in a competitive world market without transaction costs, tariffs, or taxes of any kind. Given these conditions, economic theory tells us that the law of one price must prevail. That is, the price of any good, measured in a common currency, must be equal in all countries.

If the law of one price holds and if there is no variation in the relative prices of goods or services, then the rate of change in the exchange rate must equal the difference between the inflation rates in any two countries. The implications of a constant real exchange rate—that is, that purchasing power parity (PPP) holds—are worth exploring further. To begin, PPP does not imply that exchange rate changes will necessarily be small or easy to forecast. If a country has high and unpredictable inflation (e.g., Russia), then the countrys exchange rate will also fluctuate randomly.

Nonetheless, without relative price changes, a multinational company faces no real operating exchange risk. As long as the firm avoids contracts fixed in foreign currency terms, its foreign cash flows will vary with the foreign rate of inflation. Because the exchange rate also depends on the difference between the foreign and the domestic rates of inflation, the movement of the exchange rate exactly cancels the change in the foreign price level, leaving real dollar cash flows unaffected.

Application Calculating the Effects of Exchange Rate Changes and Inflation on Apex Philippines

Apex Philippines, the Philippine subsidiary of Apex Company, produces and sells medical imaging devices in the Philippines. At the current peso exchange rate of P 1 = $0.01, the devices cost P 40,000 ($400) to produce and sell for P 100,000 ($1,000). The profit margin of P 60,000 provides a dollar margin of $600. Suppose that Philippine inflation during the year is 20%, and the U.S. inflation rate is zero. All prices and costs are assumed to move in line with inflation. If we assume that purchasing power parity holds, the peso will devalue to $0.0083 [0.01 X (1/1.2)]. The real value of the peso stays at $0.01 [0.0083 X (1.2/1.0)], so Apex Philippines’s dollar profit margin will remain at $600. These effects are shown in Exhibit 11.2.

Exhibit 11.2 The Effects of Nominal Exchange Rate Changes and Inflation on Apex Philippines

*Peso prices and costs are assumed to increase at the 20% rate of Philippine inflation.

Of course, the conclusion in the Apex Philippines application does not hold if the firm enters into contracts fixed in terms of the foreign currency. Examples of such contracts are debt with fixed interest rates, long-term leases, labor contracts, and rent. However, if the real exchange rate remains constant, the risk introduced by entering into fixed price contracts is not exchange risk; it is inflation risk. For instance, a Mexican firm with fixed-rate debt in pesos faces the same risk as the subsidiary of an American firm with peso debt. If the rate of inflation declines, the real interest cost of the debt rises, and the real cash flow of both companies falls. The solution to the problem of inflation risk is to avoid writing contracts fixed in nominal terms in countries with unpredictable inflation. If the contracts are indexed and if the real exchange rate remains constant, exchange risk is eliminated.

Competitive Effects of Real Exchange Rate Changes

In general, a decline in the real value of a nation’s currency makes its exports and import-competing goods more competitive. Conversely, an appreciating currency hurts the nation’s exporters and those producers competing with imports.

When the real value of the dollar began rising against other currencies during the early 1980s, U.S. exporters found themselves with the unpleasant choice of either keeping dollar prices constant and losing sales volume (because foreign currency prices rose in line with the appreciating dollar) or setting prices in the foreign currency to maintain market share, with a corresponding erosion in dollar revenues and profit margins. At the same time, the dollar cost of American labor remained the same or rose in line with U.S. inflation. The combination of lower dollar revenues and unchanged or higher dollar costs resulted in severe hardship for those U.S. companies selling abroad. Similarly, U.S. manufacturers competing domestically with imports whose dollar prices were declining saw both their profit margins and sales volumes reduced. In a great reversal of fortune, Japanese firms then had to cope with a yen that appreciated by more than 150% in real terms between 1985 and 1995.

Application Yen Appreciation Harms Japanese TV Producers

For most of 1985, the yen traded at about ¥240 = $1. By 1995, the yen’s value had risen to about ¥90 = $1, without a commensurate increase in U.S. inflation. This rise had a highly negative impact on Japanese television manufacturers. If it cost, say, ¥100,000 to build a color TV in Japan, ship it to the United States, and earn a normal profit, that TV could be sold in 1985 for about $417 (100,000/240). However, in 1995, the price would have had to be about $1,111 (100,000/90) for Japanese firms to break even, presenting them with the following dilemma: Because other U.S. prices had not risen much, as Japanese firms raised their dollar price to compensate for yen appreciation, Americans would buy fewer Japanese color TVs, and yen revenues would fall. If Japanese TV producers decided to keep their price constant at $417 to preserve market share in the United States, they would have to cut their yen price to about ¥37,530 (417 × 90). In general, whether they held the line on yen prices or cut them, real yen appreciation was bad news for Japanese TV manufacturers. Subsequent yen depreciation eased the pressure on Japanese companies.

Alternatively, Industrias Penoles, the Mexican firm that is the world’s largest refiner of newly mined silver, increased its dollar profits by more than 200% after the real devaluation of the Mexican peso relative to the dollar in 1982. Similarly, when the peso plunged in 1995, the company saw its profits rise again. The reason for the firm’s success is that its costs, which are in pesos, declined in dollar terms, and the dollar value of its revenues, which are derived from exports, held steady.

In summary, the economic impact of a currency change on a firm depends on whether the exchange rate change is fully offset by the difference in inflation rates or whether (because of price controls, a shift in monetary policy, or some other reason) the real exchange rate and, hence, relative prices change. It is these relative price changes that ultimately determine a firm’s long-run exposure.

A less obvious point is that a firm may face more exchange risk if nominal exchange rates do not change. Consider, for example, a Brazilian shoe manufacturer producing for export to the United States and Europe. If the Brazilian real’s exchange rate remains fixed in the face of Brazil’s typically high rate of inflation, then both the real’s real exchange rate and the manufacturer’s dollar costs of production will rise. Therefore, unless the real devalues, the Brazilian exporter will be placed at a competitive disadvantage vis-å-vis producers located in countries with less rapidly rising costs, such as Taiwan and South Korea.

Suppose, for example, that the Brazilian firm sells its shoes in the U.S. market for $10. Its profit margin is $6, or R300, because the shoes cost $4 to produce at the current exchange rate of R1 = $0.02. If Brazilian inflation is 100% but the nominal exchange rate remains constant, it will cost the manufacturer $8 to produce these same shoes by the end of the year. Assuming no U.S. inflation, the firm’s profit margin will drop to $2. The basic problem is the 100% real appreciation of the real (0.02 × 2/1). This situation is shown in Exhibit 11.3 as scenario 1.

Exhibit 11.3 The Effects of Real Exchange Rate Changes on the Brazilian Shoe Manufacturer

In order to preserve its dollar profit margin (but not its inflation-adjusted real margin), the firm will have to raise its price to $14. (Why?1) But if it does that, it will be placed at a competitive disadvantage. By contrast, scenario 2 shows that if the real devalues by 50%, to $0.01, the real exchange rate will remain constant at $0.02 ($.01 × 2/1), the Brazilian firm’s competitive situation will be unchanged, and its profit margin will stay at $6. Its inflation-adjusted real profit margin also remains the same. Note that with 100% inflation, today’s R300 profit margin must rise to R600 by year’s end (which it does) to stay constant in inflation-adjusted real terms.

Application Chile Mismanages Its Exchange Rate

Chile provides particularly dramatic illustration of the unfortunate effects of a fixed nominal exchange rate combined with high domestic inflation. As part of its plan to bring down the rate of Chilean inflation, the government fixed the exchange rate in the middle of 1979 at 39 pesos to the U.S. dollar. Over the next two and a half years, the Chilean price level rose 60%, but U.S. prices rose by only about 30%. Thus, by early 1982, the Chilean peso had appreciated in real terms by approximately 23% (1.6/1.3 − 1) against the U.S. dollar. These data are summarized in Exhibit 11.4.

Exhibit 11.4 Nominal and Real Exchange Rates for chile, 1979-1982

An 18% “corrective” devaluation was enacted in June 1982. Overall, the peso fell 90% over the next 12 months. However, the artificially high peso had already done its double damage to the Chilean economy: It made Chile’s manufactured products more expensive abroad, pricing many of them out of international trade, and it made imports cheaper, undercutting Chilean domestic industries. The effects of the overvalued peso were devastating. Banks became insolvent, factories and copper smelters were thrown into bankruptcy, copper mines were closed, construction projects were shut down, and farms were put on the auction block. Unemployment approached 25%, and some areas of Chile resembled industrial graveyards.

The implosion of the Chilean peso did have a silver lining: Chilean companies became dynamic exporters, which today sell chopsticks and salmon to Japan, wine to Europe, and machinery to the United States. It also sped the acceptance of free market economic policies that have given Chile one of the strongest growth rates in the world.

The Chilean example illustrates a critical point: An increase in the real value of a currency acts as a tax on exports and a subsidy on imports. Hence, firms that export or that compete with imports are hurt by an appreciating home currency. Conversely, such firms benefit from home-currency depreciation. These general principles identify a company’s economic exposure.

1 If the price is raised to $14, the profit margin is $6 ($14 − $8). However, at an exchange rate of R1 = $0.02, the real margin is still R300. With 100% inflation, the inflation-adjusted value of this margin is equivalent to only half of today’s margin of R300 (R2 at year’s end has the purchasing power of R1 today).

11.2 The Economic Consequences of Exchange Rate Changes

We now examine more closely the specifics of a firm’s economic exposure. Solely for the purpose of exposition, the discussion of exposure is divided into its component parts: transaction exposure and real operating exposure.

Transaction Exposure

Transaction exposure arises out of the various types of transactions that require settlement in a foreign currency. Examples are cross-border trade, borrowing and lending in foreign currencies, and the local purchasing and sales activities of foreign subsidiaries. Strictly speaking, of course, the items already on a firm’s balance sheet, such as loans and receivables, capture some of these transactions. However, a detailed transaction exposure report must also contain a number of off-balance sheet items as well, including future sales and purchases, lease payments, forward contracts, loan repayments, and other contractual or anticipated foreign currency receipts and disbursements.

In terms of measuring economic exposure, however, a transaction exposure report, no matter how detailed, has a fundamental flaw: the assumption that local currency cost and revenue streams remain constant following an exchange rate change.

That assumption does not permit an evaluation of the typical adjustments that consumers and firms can be expected to undertake under conditions of currency change. Hence, attempting to measure the likely exchange gain or loss by simply multiplying the projected predevaluation (prerevaluation) local currency cash flows by the forecast devaluation (revaluation) percentage will lead to misleading results. Given the close relationship between nominal exchange rate changes and inflation as expressed in purchasing power parity, measuring exposure to a currency change without reference to the accompanying inflation is also a misguided task.

We will now take a closer look at the typical demand and cost effects that result from a real exchange rate change and show how these effects combine to determine a firm’s true operating exposure. In general, an appreciating real exchange rate can be expected to have the opposite effects. The dollar is assumed to be the home currency (HC).

Operating Exposure

A real exchange rate change affects a number of aspects of the firm’s operations. With respect to dollar (HC) appreciation, the key issue for a domestic firm is its degree of pricing flexibility—that is, can the firm maintain its dollar margins both at home and abroad? Can the company maintain its dollar price on domestic sales in the face of lower-priced foreign imports? In the case of foreign sales, can the firm raise its foreign currency selling price sufficiently to preserve its dollar profit margin?

The answers to these questions depend largely on the price elasticity of demand. The less price elastic the demand, the more price flexibility a company will have to respond to exchange rate changes. Price elasticity, in turn, depends on the degree of competition and the location of key competitors. The more differentiated (distinct) products a company has, the less competition it will face and the greater its ability to maintain its domestic currency prices both at home and abroad. Examples here are IBM and Daimler (producer of Mercedes-Benz cars), both of which sell highly differentiated products whose demand has been relatively insensitive to price (at least historically, but competition is changing that). Similarly, if most competitors are based in the home country, then all will face the same change in their cost structure from HC appreciation, and all can raise their foreign currency prices without putting any of them at a competitive disadvantage relative to their domestic competitors. Examples of this situation include the precision instrumentation and high-end telecommunications industries, in which virtually all the important players are U.S.-based companies.

Conversely, the less differentiated a company’s products are and the more internationally diversified its competitors (e.g., the low-priced end of the auto industry) are, the greater the price elasticity of demand for its products will be and the less pricing flexibility it will have. These companies face the greatest amount of exchange risk. For example, in the wake of the Asian currency crisis, Chinese exporters suffered from intense price competition by Asian producers whose currencies had fallen by 40% or more against the yuan. The main culprit was the nature of the products they were producing—commodity-type products such as polyester fibers, steel, textiles, and ships that sell almost exclusively on the basis of price. On the other hand, when the yuan fell against other Asian currencies during 2003 (because it was tied to a falling dollar), Chinese manufacturers benefited greatly while other Asian manufacturers were hurt.2

Application Product Differentiation and Susceptibility to Exchange Risk of the U.S. Apparel and Textile Industries

The U.S. textile and apparel industries are highly competitive, with each composed of many small manufacturers. In addition, nearly every country has a textile industry, and apparel industries are also common to most countries.

Despite these similarities, the textile industry exists in a more competitive environment than the apparel industry because textile products are more standardized than apparel products. Buyers of textiles can easily switch from a firm that sells a standard good at a higher price to one that sells virtually the same good at a lower price. Because they are more differentiated, the products of competing apparel firms are viewed as more distinct and are less sensitive than textile goods to changes in prices. Thus, even though both textile and apparel firms operate in highly competitive industries, apparel firms—with their greater degree of pricing flexibility—are less subject to exchange risk than are textile firms.

To cope with their currency risk, American textile manufacturers have slashed their production costs while concentrating on sophisticated textile materials such as industrial fabrics and on goods such as sheets and towels that require little direct labor and are less price sensitive.

American producers are also competing by developing a service edge in the domestic market, which enables them to differentiate even commodity products. For example, the industry developed a computerized inventory management and ordering program, called Quick Response, that provides close coordination among textile mills, apparel manufacturers, and retailers. The system cuts in half the time between a fabric order and delivery of the garment to a retailer and gives all the parties better information for planning, thereby placing foreign manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage. In response, Japanese companies—and even some Korean ones—are looking to set up U.S. factories.

Mini-Case Euro Appreciation Hurts Southern European Exports

Southern European countries (e.g., Spain, Greece, Italy, and Portugal) traditionally export lowtech manufactured items such as textiles, toys, and footwear that are in direct competition with inexpensive goods from China. The steady strengthening of the euro from 2002 through 2004 made exports from these countries more expensive and less competitive, costing them global market share. Unfortunately, the strong euro also came at the same time as relatively high inflation in southern Europe, especially Spain, Greece, and Portugal. By 2005, the euro’s appreciation had driven many exporters in those countries to shift production to China and other countries with lower labor costs and weaker currencies.


1. Why are southern European countries particularly vulnerable to a strong euro?

2. How does the relatively high inflation rate in southern Europe add to the problems created by a strong euro?

3. In contrast to southern Europe, northern Europe, especially Germany, exports more complex and brand-name manufactured items, such as automobiles, machine tools, and specialty chemicals. Would you expect German exports to be more or less sensitive than southern European exports to pricing pressures from a strong euro? Explain.

4. It turns out that Italian companies exporting food products such as Parma ham and Parmigiano cheese have not seen a drop in exports, nor have high-fashion exporters such as Armani and Valentino despite the strong euro. Explain

Another important determinant of a company’s susceptibility to exchange risk is its ability to shift production and the sourcing of inputs among countries. The greater a company’s flexibility to substitute between home-country and foreign-country inputs or production, the less exchange risk the company will face. Other things being equal, firms with worldwide production systems can cope with currency changes by increasing production in a nation whose currency has undergone a real devaluation and decreasing production in a nation whose currency has revalued in real terms.

With respect to a multinational corporation’s foreign operations, the determinants of its economic exposure will be similar to those just mentioned. A foreign subsidiary selling goods or services in its local market will generally be unable to raise its local currency (LC) selling price to the full extent of an LC devaluation, causing it to register a decline in its postdevaluation dollar revenues. However, because an LC devaluation will also reduce import competition, the more import competition the subsidiary was facing prior to the devaluation, the smaller its dollar revenue decline will be.

The harmful effects of LC devaluation will be mitigated somewhat since the devaluation should lower the subsidiary’s dollar production costs, particularly those attributable to local inputs. However, the higher the import content of local inputs, the less dollar production costs will decline. Inputs used in the export or import-competing sectors will decline less in dollar price than other domestic inputs.

An MNC using its foreign subsidiary as an export platform will benefit from an LC devaluation since its export revenues should stay about the same, whereas its dollar costs will decline. The net result will be a jump in dollar profits for the exporter.

The major conclusion is that the sector of the economy in which a firm operates (export, import-competing, or purely domestic), the sources of the firm’s inputs (imports, domestic traded or nontraded goods), and fluctuations in the real exchange rate are far more important in delineating the firm’s true economic exposure than is any accounting definition. The economic effects are summarized in Exhibit 11.5.

A surprising implication of this analysis is that domestic facilities that supply foreign markets normally entail much greater exchange risk than do foreign facilities that supply local markets. The explanation is that material and labor used in a domestic plant are paid for in the home currency, whereas the products are sold in a foreign currency. For example, take a Japanese company such as Nissan Motors that builds a plant to produce cars for export, primarily to the United States. The company will incur an exchange risk from the point at which it invests in facilities to supply a foreign market (the United States) because its yen expenses will be matched with dollar revenues rather than yen revenues. The point seems obvious; however, all too frequently, firms neglect those effects when analyzing a proposed foreign investment.

Exhibit 11.5 Characteristic Economic Effects of Exchange Rate Changes on Multinational Corporations

Note: To interpret this chart, and taking the impact of a devaluation on local demand as an example, it is assumed that if import competition is weak, local prices will climb slightly, if at all; in such a case, there would be a sharp contraction in parent-company revenue. If imports generate strong competition, local-currency prices are expected to increase, although not to the full extent of the devaluation; in this instance, only a moderate decline in parent-company revenue would be registered.

Source: Alan C. Shapiro, “Developing a Profitable Exposure Management System,” reprinted from p. 188 of the June 17, 1977, issue of Business International Money Report, with the permission of the Economist Intelligence Unit, NA, Incorporated.

Similarly, a facility producing solely for the domestic market and using only domestic sources of inputs can be strongly affected by currency changes, even though its accounting exposure is zero. Consider, for example, a Ford factory in Detroit that produces cars for sale only in the United States and uses only U.S. labor and materials. Because it buys and sells only in dollars, this factory has no accounting exposure. However, because its cars are subject to competition from foreign imports, this plant will be hurt by appreciation of the dollar. Conversely, a dollar decline will enhance its competitive position and boost its profits.

Mini-Case How Rising Gold Prices Hurt Harmony

The notion of gold as a store of value has flourished since September 11, 2001. On that horrible day, the price of gold stood at $288 an ounce. Three years later, it was around $420 an ounce. Harmony, a South African mining company, should have flourished as well from the jump in the price of gold. However, the rising value of the South African rand has stolen much of that gain. On the day the Twin Towers fell, the dollar bought 8.62 rand. Three years later, it bought only R6.35. Gold is priced in dollars, but South African miners are paid in rand and their wages have risen rapidly as well. Harmony has felt the pain. When gold was at its dollar low in April to June 2001 (2001:Q2) of $252, Harmony made a profit of $20 an ounce. In 2004:Q2, with gold at $390, Harmony lost about $50 an ounce.


1. How much rand revenue per ounce was Harmony generating on September 11, 2001? Three years later?

2. The average exchange rate during 2001:Q2 was R8.04/$; in 2004:Q2, it was R6.60/$. Compare Harmony’s earnings per ounce in rand terms during 2001:Q2 with the same figure in 2004:Q2.

3. Given the exchange rates in question 2, by how much would Harmony have to reduce its rand costs per ounce in 2004:Q2 in order to make the same rand profit per ounce it was earning in 2001:Q2?

2 A falling dollar meant that Asian exporters to the United States had to either raise their dollar prices to maintain margins or accept lower revenues when converted into their home currencies. An added problem was that the costs of their Chinese competitors were denominated in yuan and when the dollar declined a yuan fixed to the dollar also fell in equal measure against other Asian currencies. At the same time, a yuan tied to the dollar meant that U.S. manufacturers competing with Chinese firms got less of a boost from a falling dollar. As noted in Chapter 2, since 2005 the yuan has been less closely aligned with the dollar.

11.3 Identifying Economic Exposure

At this point, it makes sense to illustrate some of the concepts just discussed by examining several firms to see in what ways they may be susceptible to exchange risk. The companies are Aspen Skiing Company, Petroleos Mexicanos, and Toyota Motor Company

Aspen Skiing Company

Aspen Skiing Company owns and operates ski resorts in the Colorado Rockies, catering primarily to Americans. It buys all its supplies in dollars and uses only American labor and materials. All guests pay in dollars. Because it buys and sells only in dollars, by U.S. standards it has no accounting exposure. Yet, Aspen Skiing Company does face economic exposure because changes in the value of the dollar affect its competitive position. For example, the strong dollar in the early 1980s adversely affected the company because it led to bargains abroad that offered stiff competition for domestic resorts, including the Rocky Mountain ski areas.

Despite record snowfalls in the Rockies during the early 1980s, many Americans decided to ski in the European Alps instead. Although airfare to the Alps cost much more than a flight to Colorado, the difference between expenses on the ground made a European ski holiday less expensive. For example, in January 1984, American Express offered a basic one-week ski package in Aspen for $439 per person, including double-occupancy lodging, lift ticket, and free rental car or bus transfer from Denver.3 Throw in round-trip airfare between New York and Denver of $300 and the trip’s cost totaled $739.

At the same time, skiers could spend a week in Chamonix in the French Alps for $234, including lodging, lift ticket, breakfast, and a bus transfer from Geneva, Switzerland. Adding in round-trip airfare from New York of $579 brought the trip’s cost to $813. The Alpine vacation became less expensive than the one in the Rockies when the cost of meals was included: an estimated $50 a day in Aspen versus $30 a day in Chamonix.

In effect, Aspen Skiing Company is operating in a global market for skiing or, more broadly, vacation services. As the dollar appreciates in real terms, both foreigners and Americans find less-expensive skiing and vacation alternatives outside the United States. In addition, even if California and other West Coast skiers find that high transportation costs continue to make it more expensive to ski in Europe than in the Rockies, they are not restricted to the American Rockies. They have the choice of skiing in the Canadian Rockies, where the skiing is fine and their dollars go further.

Conversely, a depreciating dollar, such as occurred since 2002, makes Aspen Skiing Company more competitive and should increase its revenues and profits. In either event, the use of American products and labor means that its costs will not be significantly affected by exchange rate fluctuations.

3 Report in the Wall Street Journal, January 17, 1984, p. 1.

Petróleos Mexicanos

Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, is the Mexican national oil company. It is the largest company in Mexico and ranks as one of the biggest non-U.S. industrial companies. Most of its sales are overseas. Suppose Pemex borrows U.S. dollars. If the peso devalues, is Pemex a better or worse credit risk?

The instinctive response of most people is that devaluation of the peso makes Pemex a poorer credit risk. This response is wrong. Consider Pemex’s revenues. Assume that it exports all its oil. Because oil is priced in dollars, Pemex’s dollar revenues will remain the same following peso devaluation. Its dollar costs, however, will change. Most of its operating costs are denominated in pesos. These costs include labor, local supplies, services, and materials. Although the peso amount of these costs may go up somewhat, they will not rise to the extent of the devaluation of the peso. Hence, the dollar amount of peso costs will decline. Pemex also uses a variety of sophisticated equipment and services to aid in oil exploration, drilling, and production. Because these inputs are generally from foreign sources, their dollar costs are likely to be unaffected by peso devaluation. Inasmuch as some costs will fall in dollar terms and other costs will stay the same, the overall effect of peso devaluation is a decline in Pemex’s dollar costs.

Since its dollar revenue will stay the same while the dollar amount of its costs will fall, the net effect on Pemex of a peso devaluation is to increase its dollar cash flow. Hence, it becomes a better credit risk in terms of its ability to service dollar debt.

Might this conclusion be reversed if it turns out that Pemex sells much of its oil domestically? Surprisingly, the answer is no if we add the further condition that the Mexican government does not impose oil price controls. Suppose the price of oil is $20 a barrel. If the initial peso exchange rate is U.S.$0.16/Mex$, the price of oil in Mexico must be Mex$125 (20/0.16) a barrel. Otherwise, there would be an arbitrage opportunity because oil transportation costs are a small fraction of the price of oil. If the peso now devalues to $0.08, the price of oil must rise to Mex$250. Consider what would happen if the price stayed at Mex$125. The dollar equivalent price would now be $10. But why would Pemex sell oil in Mexico for $10 a barrel when it could sell the same oil outside Mexico for $20 a barrel? It would not do so unless there were price controls in Mexico and the government prohibited foreign sales. Hence, in the absence of government intervention, the peso price of oil must rise to Mex$250 and Pemex’s dollar profits will rise whether it exports all or part of its oil.

This situation points out the important distinction between the currency of denomination and the currency of determination. The currency of denomination is the currency in which prices are stated. For example, oil prices in Mexico are stated in pesos. However, although the currency of denomination for oil sales in Mexico is the peso, the peso price itself is determined by the dollar price of oil. That is, as the peso:dollar exchange rate changes, the peso price of oil changes to equate the dollar equivalent price of oil in Mexico with the dollar price of oil in the world market. Thus, the currency of determination for Pemex’s domestic oil sales is the U.S. dollar.

Toyota Motor Company

Toyota is the largest Japanese auto company and the fourth largest non-U.S. industrial firm in the world. Over half of its sales are overseas, primarily in the United States. If the yen appreciates, Toyota has the choice of keeping its yen price constant or its dollar price constant. If Toyota holds its yen price constant, the dollar price of its auto exports will rise and sales volume will decline. On the other hand, if Toyota decides to maintain its U.S. market share, it must hold its dollar price constant. In either case, its yen revenues will fall.

If Toyota decides to focus on the Japanese market, it will face the flow-back effect, as previously exported products flow back into Japan. Flow-back occurs because other Japanese firms, finding that a high yen makes it difficult to export their cars, emphasize Japanese sales as well. The result is increased domestic competition and lower profit margins on domestic sales.

Toyota’s yen production costs will also be affected by yen appreciation. Steel, copper, aluminum, oil (from which plastics are made), and other materials that go into making a car are all imported. As the yen appreciates, the yen cost of these imported materials will decline. Yen costs of labor and domestic services, products, and equipment will likely stay the same. The net effect of lower yen costs for some inputs and constant yen costs for other inputs is a reduction in overall yen costs of production.

The net effect on profits of lower yen revenues and lower yen costs is an empirical question. This question can be answered by examining the profit consequences of yen appreciation. Here, the answer is unambiguous: Yen appreciation hurts Toyota; the reduction in its revenues more than offsets the reduction in its costs.

Exhibit 11.6 Key Questions to Ask That Help Identify

These three examples illustrate a progression of ideas. Aspen Skiing Company’s revenues were affected by exchange rate changes, but its costs were largely unaffected. By contrast, Pemex’s costs, but not its revenues, were affected by exchange rate changes. Toyota had both its costs and its revenues affected by exchange rate changes. The process of examining these companies includes a systematic approach to identifying a company’s exposure to exchange risk. Exhibit 11.6 summarizes this approach by presenting a series of questions that underlie the analysis of economic exposure.

11.4 Calculating Economic Exposure

We will now work through a hypothetical, though comprehensive, example illustrating all the various aspects of exposure that have been discussed so far. This example emphasizes the quantitative, rather than qualitative, determination of economic exposure. It shows how critical the underlying assumptions are.

Spectrum Manufacturing AB is the wholly owned Swedish affiliate of a U.S. multinational industrial plastics firm. It manufactures patented sheet plastic in Sweden, with 60% of its output currently being sold in Sweden and the remaining 40% exported to other European countries. Spectrum uses only Swedish labor in its manufacturing process, but it uses both local and foreign sources of raw material. The effective Swedish tax rate on corporate profits is 40%, and the annual depreciation charge on plant and equipment, in Swedish kronor (SKr), is SKr 900,000. In addition, Spectrum AB has outstanding SKr 3 million in debt, with interest payable at 10% annually.

Exhibit 11.7 presents Spectrum’s projected sales, costs, after-tax income, and cash flow for the coming year, based on the current exchange rate of SKr 4 = $1. All sales are invoiced in kronor (singular, krona).

Exhibit 11.7 Summary of Projected Operations for Spectrum Manufacturing ab: Base Case

Spectrum’s Accounting Exposure

Exhibit 11.8 shows Spectrum’s balance sheet before and after an exchange rate change. To contrast the economic and accounting approaches to measuring exposure, assume that the Swedish krona devalues by 20%, from SKr 4 = $1 to SKr 5 = $1. The third column of Exhibit 11.8 shows that under the current rate method mandated by FASB-52, Spectrum will have a translation loss of $685,000. Use of the monetary/nonmonetary method leads to a much smaller reported loss of $50,000.

Spectrum’s Economic Exposure

On the basis of current information, it is impossible to determine the precise economic impact of the krona devaluation. Therefore, three different scenarios have been constructed, with varying degrees of plausibility, and Spectrum’s economic exposure has been calculated under each scenario. The three scenarios are

1. All variables remain the same.

2. Krona sales prices and all costs rise; volume remains the same.

3. There are partial increases in prices, costs, and volume.

Scenario 1: All Variables Remain the Same. If all prices remain the same (in kronor) and sales volume does not change, then Spectrum’s krona cash flow will stay at SKr 3,600,000. At the new exchange rate, this amount will equal $720,000 (3,600,000/5). Then the net loss in dollar operating cash flow in year 1 can be calculated as follows:

Exhibit 11.8 Impact of Krona Devaluation on Spectrum AB’s Financial Statement under FASB-52

FASB-52 = Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 52.

First-year cash flow (SKr 4 = $1)


First-year cash flow (SKr 5 = $1)


Net loss from devaluation


Moreover, this loss will continue until relative prices adjust. Part of this loss, however, will be offset by the $150,000 gain that will be realized when the SKr 3 million loan is repaid (3 million X 0.05).4 If a three-year adjustment process is assumed and the krona loan will be repaid at the end of year 3, then the present value of the economic loss from operations associated with the krona devaluation, using a 15% discount rate, equals $312,420:


Postdevaluation Cash Flow (1)

Predevaluation Cash Flow (2)


Change in Cash Flow (3)


15% Present Value Factor (4)


Present Value (5)



















Net Loss


*Includes a gain of $150,000 on loan repayment.

This loss is due primarily to the inability to raise the sales price. The resulting constant krona profit margin translates into a 20% reduction in dollar profits. The economic loss of $312,420 contrasts with the accounting recognition of a $685,000 foreign exchange loss. In reality, of course, the prices, costs, volume, and input mix are unlikely to remain fixed. The discussion will now focus on the economic effects of some of these potential adjustments.

Scenario 2: Krona Sales Prices and All Costs Rise; Volume Remains the Same. It is assumed here that all costs and prices increase in proportion to the krona devaluation, but unit volume remains the same. However, the operating cash flow in kronor does not rise to the same extent because depreciation, which is based on historical cost, remains at SKr 900,000. As a potential offset, interest payments also hold steady at SKr 300,000. Working through the numbers in Exhibit 11.9 gives us an operating cash flow of $891,000.

The $9,000 reduction in cash flow equals the decreased dollar value of the SKr 900,000 depreciation tax shield less the decreased dollar cost of paying the SKr 300,000 in interest. Before devaluation, the depreciation tax shield was worth (900,000 × 0.4)/4 dollars, or $90,000. After devaluation, the dollar value of the tax shield declines to (900,000 × 0.4)/5 dollars = $72,000, or a loss of $18,000 in cash flow. Similarly, the dollar cost of paying SKr 300,000 in interest declines by $15,000 to $60,000 (from $75,000). After tax, this decrease in interest expense equals $9,000. Adding the two figures (—$18,000 + $9,000) yields a net loss of $9,000 annually in operating cash flow. The net economic gain over the coming three years, relative to predevaluation expectations, is $78,150.


Postdevaluation Cash Flow (1)

Predevaluation Cash Flow (2)


Change in Cash Flow (3)


15% Present Value Factor (4)


Present Value (5)
















+ 141,000



Net Gain


*Includes a gain of $150,000 on loan repayment.

All of this gain in economic value comes from the gain on repayment of the krona loan.

Scenario 3: Partial Increases in Prices, Costs, and Volume. In the most realistic situation, all variables will adjust somewhat. It is assumed here that the sales price at home rises by 10% to SKr 22 and the export price rises to SKr 24—still providing a competitive advantage in dollar terms over foreign products. The result is a 20% increase in domestic sales and a 15% increase in export sales.

Local input prices are assumed to go up, but the dollar price of imported material stays at its predevaluation level. As a result of the change in relative cost, some substitutions are made between domestic and imported goods. The result is an increase in SKr unit cost of approximately 17%. Overhead expenses rise by only 10% because some components of this account, such as rent and local taxes, are fixed in value. The net result of all these adjustments is an operating cash flow of $1,010,800, which is a gain of $110,800 over the predevaluation level of $900,000. The calculations are shown in Exhibit 11.10.

Exhibit 11.9 Summary of Projected Operations for Spectrum Manufacturing AB: Scenario 2

Exhibit 11.10 Summary of Projected Operations for Spectrum Manufacturing AB: Scenario 3

Over the next three years, cash flows and the firm’s economic value will change as follows:


Postdevaluation Cash Flow (1)

Predevaluation Cash Flow (2)


Change in Cash Flow (3)


15% Present Value Factor (4)


Present Value (5)






$ 96,396













Net Gain


*Includes a gain of $150,000 on loan repayment.

Thus, under this scenario, the economic value of the firm will increase by $351,767. This gain reflects the increase in operating cash flow combined with the gain on loan repayment.

Case Analysis.

The three preceding scenarios demonstrate the sensitivity of a firm’s economic exposure to assumptions concerning its price elasticity of demand, its ability to adjust its mix of inputs as relative costs change, its pricing flexibility, subsequent local inflation, and its use of local currency financing. Perhaps most important of all, this example makes clear the lack of any necessary relationship between accounting-derived measures of exchange gains or losses and the true impact of currency changes on a firm’s economic value. The economic effects of this devaluation under the three alternative scenarios are summarized in Exhibit 11.11.

4 No Swedish taxes will be owed on this gain because SKr 3 million were borrowed and SKr 3 million were repaid.

11.5 An Operational Measure of Exchange Risk

The preceding example demonstrates that determining a firm’s true economic exposure is a daunting task, requiring a singular ability to forecast the amounts and exchange rate sensitivities of future cash flows. Most firms that follow the economic approach to managing exposure, therefore, must settle for a measure of their economic exposure and the resulting exchange risk that often is supported by nothing more substantial than intuition.

Exhibit 11.11 Summary of Economic Exposure Impact of Krona Devaluation on Spectrum Manufacturing ab

*Includes a gain of $150,000 on loan repayment.

This section presents a workable approach for determining a firm’s true economic exposure and susceptibility to exchange risk. The approach avoids the problem of using seat-of-the-pants estimates in performing the necessary calculations.5 The technique is straightforward to apply, and it requires only historical data from the firm’s actual operations or, in the case of a de novo venture, data from a comparable business.

This approach is based on the following operational definition of the exchange risk faced by a parent or one of its foreign affiliates: A company faces exchange risk to the extent that variations in the dollar value of the units cash flows are correlated with variations in the nominal exchange rate. This correlation is precisely what a regression analysis seeks to establish. A simple and straightforward way to implement this definition, therefore, is to regress the changes in actual cash flows from past periods, converted into their dollar values, on changes in the average exchange rate during the corresponding period. Specifically, this involves running the following regression:6


ΔCFt =CFt − CFt-1, and CFt equals the dollar value of total affiliate (parent) cash flows in period t

ΔEXCHt = EXCHt − EXCHt-1, and EXCHt equals the average nominal exchange rate (dollar value of one unit of the foreign currency) during period t

u = a random error term with mean 0

The output from a regression such as Equation 11.3 includes three key parameters: (1) the foreign exchange beta (ß) coefficient, which measures the sensitivity of dollar cash flows to exchange rate changes; (2) the t-statistic, which measures the statistical significance of the beta coefficient; and (3) the R2, which measures the fraction of cash flow variability explained by variation in the exchange rate. The higher the beta coefficient, the greater the impact of a given exchange rate change on the dollar value of cash flows. Conversely, the lower the beta coefficient, the less exposed the firm is to exchange rate changes. A larger t-statistic means a higher level of confidence in the value of the beta coefficient.

However, even if a firm has a large and statistically significant beta coefficient and thus faces real exchange risk, it does not necessarily mean that currency fluctuations are an important determinant of overall firm risk. What really matters is the percentage of total corporate cash-flow variability that is due to these currency fluctuations. Thus, the most important parameter, in terms of its impact on the firm’s exposure management policy, is the regressions R2. For example, if exchange rate changes explain only 1% of total cash-flow variability, the firm should not devote much in the way of resources to foreign exchange risk management, even if the beta coefficient is large and statistically significant.


The validity of this method is clearly dependent on the sensitivity of future cash flows to exchange rate changes being similar to their historical sensitivity. In the absence of additional information, this assumption seems to be reasonable. However, the firm may have reason to modify the implementation of this method. For example, the nominal foreign currency tax shield provided by a foreign affiliate’s depreciation is fully exposed to the effects of currency fluctuations. If the amount of depreciation in the future is expected to differ significantly from its historical values, then the depreciation tax shield should be removed from the cash flows used in the regression analysis and treated separately. Similarly, if the firm has recently entered into a large purchase or sales contract fixed in terms of the foreign currency, it might decide to consider the resulting transaction exposure apart from its operating exposure.

5 This section is based on C. Kent Garner and Alan C. Shapiro, “A Practical Method of Assessing Foreign Exchange Risk,” Midland Corporate Finance Journal, Fall 1984, pp. 6-17.

6 The application of the regression approach to measuring exposure to currency risk is illustrated in Garner and Shapiro, “A Practical Method of Assessing Foreign Exchange Risk,” and in Michael Adler and Bernard Dumas, “Exposure to Currency Risk: Definition and Measurement,” Financial Management, Summer 1984, pp. 41-50. We use changes, rather than levels, of the variables in the regression because the variables are nonstationary. In addition, such a regression may include lagged values of EXCHt given that sales and costs often respond with a lag to exchange rate changes.

11.6 Managing Operating Exposure

The basic message of this section is straightforward: Because currency risk affects all facets of a company’s operations, it should not be the concern of financial managers alone. Operating managers, in particular, should develop marketing and production initiatives that help ensure profitability over the long run. They should also devise anticipatory or proactive, rather than reactive, strategic alternatives in order to gain competitive leverage internationally.

The focus on the real (economic) effects of currency changes and how to cope with the associated risks suggests that a sensible strategy for exchange risk management is one that is designed to protect the dollar (HC) earning power of the company as a whole. But whereas firms can easily hedge transaction exposures, competitive exposures—those arising from competition with firms based in other currencies—are longer term and cannot be dealt with solely through financial hedging techniques. Rather, they require making the longer-term operating adjustments described in this section.

Marketing Management of Exchange Risk

The design of a firm’s marketing strategy under conditions of HC fluctuation presents considerable opportunity for gaining competitive leverage. Thus, one of the international marketing manager’s tasks should be to identify the likely effects of a currency change and then act on them by adjusting pricing and product policies.

Market Selection.

Major strategic considerations for an exporter are the markets in which to sell—that is, market selection—and the relative marketing support to devote to each market. As a result of the strong dollar during the early 1980s, for example, some discouraged U.S. firms pulled out of markets that foreign competition made unprofitable. From the perspective of foreign companies, however, the strong U.S. dollar was a golden opportunity to gain market share at the expense of their U.S. rivals. Japanese and European companies also used their dollar cost advantage to carve out market share against American competitors in third markets. The subsequent drop in the dollar helped U.S. firms turn the tables on their foreign competitors, both at home and abroad. A similar situation occurred when the strong dollar of the 1990s turned into the weak dollar of the 2000s.

Pricing Strategy.

The key issue that must be addressed when developing a pricing strategy in the face of currency volatility is whether to emphasize market share or profit margin. Following dollar depreciation, for example, U.S. exports will gain a competitive price advantage on the world market. A U.S. exporter now has the option of raising its dollar price and boosting its profit margins or keeping its dollar price constant and expanding its market share. The decision is influenced by factors such as whether this change is likely to persist, economies of scale, the cost structure of expanding output, consumer price sensitivity, and the likelihood of attracting competition if high unit profitability is obvious.

The greater the price elasticity of demand—the change in demand for a given change in price—the greater the incentive to hold down price and thereby expand sales and revenues. Similarly, if significant economies of scale exist, it generally will be worthwhile to hold down price, expand demand, and thereby lower unit production costs. The reverse is true if economies of scale are nonexistent or if price elasticity is low.

Application A.T. Cross Marks Down Its Pen Prices

In February 1993, following a 10% decline in the dollar (from ¥123 to ¥111), A.T. Cross cut the yen prices of its pens by 20%. For example, a 10-carat gold Cross pen was marked down to ¥8,000 from ¥10,000. Suppose that the manufacturing and shipping costs of this Cross pen were $25 and distribution costs were ¥2,000, giving Cross a pre-exchange rate change contribution margin of $40 (¥10,000/123 − $25 − ¥2,000/123). Assummg these costs stay the same, how much additional volume must Cross generate in order to maintain its dollar profits on this pen?

Solution: The contribution margin given the new exchange rate and the price change equals $29 (¥8,000/111 − $25 − ¥2,000/111). In order to maintain dollar profits on this pen at their previous level, unit sales must rise by 38% (40/29). A sales increase of this magnitude implies a price elasticity of demand of 1.9 (38/20).

Turning now to domestic pricing after a fall in the home currency, a domestic firm facing strong import competition may have much greater latitude in pricing. It then has the choice of potentially raising prices consistent with import price increases or of holding prices constant in order to improve market share. Again, the strategy depends on variables such as economies of scale and the price elasticity of demand. For example, the sharp rise in the value of the yen and Deutsche mark during the 1990s led the German and Japanese automakers to raise their dollar prices and allowed Ford and General Motors to raise their prices on competing models. The price increases by the U.S. auto manufacturers, which were less than the sharp rise in import prices, improved their profit margins and kept U.S. cars competitive with their foreign rivals.

The competitive situation is reversed following appreciation of the dollar, which is equivalent to a foreign currency (FC) depreciation. In this case, a U.S. firm selling overseas should consider opportunities to increase the FC prices of its products. The problem, of course, is that local producers now will have a competitive cost advantage, limiting an exporter’s ability to recoup dollar profits by raising FC selling prices.

At best, therefore, an exporter will be able to raise its product prices by the extent of the FC depreciation. For example, suppose Avon is selling cosmetics in England priced at £2.00 when the exchange rate is $1.80/£. This gives Avon revenue of $3.60 per unit. If the pound declines to $1.50/£, Avon’s unit revenue will fall to $3.00, unless it can raise its selling price to £2.40 (2.40 × 1.50 = $3.60). At worst, in an extremely competitive situation, the exporter will have to absorb a reduction in HC revenues equal to the percentage decline in the value of the foreign currency. For example, if Avon cannot raise its pound price, its new dollar price of $3.00 represents a 16.7% drop in dollar revenue, the same percentage decline as the fall in the pounds value [(1.80 − 1.50)/1.80]. In the most likely case, FC prices can be raised somewhat, and the exporter will make up the difference through a lower profit margin on its foreign sales.

In deciding whether to raise prices following a foreign currency depreciation, companies must consider not just sales that will be lost today but also the likelihood of losing future sales as well. For example, foreign capital goods manufacturers used the period when they had a price advantage to build strong U.S. distribution and service networks. U.S. firms that had not previously bought foreign-made equipment became loyal customers. When the dollar fell, foreign firms opened U.S. plants to supply their distribution systems and hold onto their customers.

The same is true in many other markets as well: A customer who is lost may be lost forever. For example, a customer who is satisfied with a foreign automobile may stick with that brand for a long time.

Mini-Case Check the Euro and Ship the Boxes!

In 2001, Kim Reynolds, president of Markel Corp., located in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, had to take a 40% pay cut to offset the effects of a skyrocketing dollar. Markel, which makes Teflon-based tubing and insulated wire used in the automotive, appliance, and water-purification industries, has developed a four-part strategy to cope with currency volatility: (1) Charge customers relatively stable prices in their own currencies to build overseas market share, while absorbing currency gains or losses; (2) use forward contracts to lock in dollar revenues for the next several months; (3) improve efficiency to survive when the dollar appreciates; and (4) pray. Reynolds believes his policy of keeping prices set in foreign currencies, mainly the euro, has helped Markel capture 70% of the world market for high-performance, Teflon-coated cablecontrol liners. However, it also means that Markel signs multiyear contracts denominated in euros. When he thinks the dollar will rise, Markel’s CFO, James Hoban, might hedge the company’s entire expected euro revenue stream for the next several months with a forward contract. If he thinks the dollar will fall, he will hedge perhaps 50% and take a chance that he will make more dollars by remaining exposed. Hoban sometimes guesses wrong, as when he sold euros forward assuming—incorrectly—that the euro would continue falling. To make matters worse, Markel entered a multiyear contract with a German firm in 1998 and set the sales price assuming that the euro would be at $1.18 for the next several years. In fact, the euro sank like a rock and Markel had more than $625,000 in currency losses in 2001 and 2002 combined. One of Markel’s responses was to buy new equipment that cut production downtime and waste material. By 2003, most of Markel’s contracts outstanding were written assuming that the euro would be valued between 90 cents and 95 cents. The jump in the euro’s dollar value thus created a currency windfall for Markel. To lock in his dollar costs and reduce his currency risk, Reynolds demands that his Japanese supplier of raw materials sign multiyear dollar contracts.


1. Why does a rise in the dollar hurt Markel? How does a falling dollar help Markel?

2. What does Markel do to hedge its currency risk? Can Markel use hedging to completely eliminate its currency risk?

3. Comment on Markel’s policy of selective hedging. Are there any speculative elements involved in such a policy? Would you recommend Markel continue to follow a policy of selective hedging? Why or why not?

4. What are the basic elements of Markel’s pricing policy? Does this pricing policy reduce its currency risk? Explain.

5. Does locking in Markel’s dollar costs of raw materials through multiyear dollar contracts automatically reduce the company’s currency exposure?

Product Strategy.

Companies often respond to exchange risk by altering their product strategy, which deals with areas such as new-product introduction, product line decisions, and product innovation. One way to cope with exchange rate fluctuations is to change the timing of the introduction of new products. For example, because of the competitive price advantage, the period after a home currency depreciation may be the ideal time to develop a brand franchise.

Exchange rate fluctuations also affect product line decisions. Following home currency devaluation, a firm will potentially be able to expand its product line and cover a wider spectrum of consumers both at home and abroad. Conversely, home currency appreciation may force a firm to reorient its product line and target it to a higher-income, more quality-conscious, less price-sensitive constituency. Volkswagen, for example, achieved its export prominence on the basis of low-priced, stripped-down, low-maintenance cars. The appreciation of the Deutsche mark in the early 1970s, however, effectively ended VW’s ability to compete primarily on the basis of price. The company lost more than $310 million in 1974 alone attempting to maintain its market share by lowering DM prices. To compete in the long run, Volkswagen was forced to revise its product line and sell relatively high-priced cars to middle-income consumers from an extended product line, on the basis of quality and styling rather than cost.

The equivalent strategy for firms selling to the industrial rather than consumer market and confronting a strong home currency is product innovation, financed by an expanded research and development (R&D) budget. For example, Japanese exporters responded to the rising yen by shifting production from commodity-type goods to more sophisticated, high-value products. Demand for such goods, which embody advanced technology, high-quality standards, and other nonprice features, is less sensitive to price increases caused by yen appreciation.

Application Automatic Feed Survives Through Ingenuity

The strong dollar of the late 1990s and early 2000s set off a small revolution in factories across America. Consider Automatic Feed Co. Located in Napoleon, Ohio, it makes machinery used in auto plants. To cope with the strong dollar, it undertook the most extensive product redesign in its 52-year history. Its aim was to neutralize the cost advantages its foreign competitors enjoyed because of their weak home currencies. The company redesigned its machines to make them easier and less expensive to build and also modernized its production system to reduce the costs of manufacturing. By 2002, the production overhaul and redesign efforts had cut production costs by 20%. At the same time, Automatic Feed developed new software that allowed customers to track the productivity of a particular machine on a manufacturing line and to pinpoint exactly where a problem is when a line breaks down. By quickly flagging the source of a problem and displaying a digital rendering of it on a computer monitor, the software saves time and cost for customers. This ingenious software reduces the price elasticity of demand for the company’s offerings, thereby making it less subject to currency risk.

Companies can also differentiate their product offerings by adding service features that customers value. For this to be a viable strategy, the premium customers are prepared to pay for this differentiation must exceed the cost of adding these service features.

Application Fresco Group Is Squeezed by Dollarization

It is 2005, and while the rest of the world tries to cope with a weak dollar, Fresco Group, a clothing manufacturer in El Salvador, is worried that the dollar is too strong. Fresco’s concerns stem from El Salvadors decision in 2001 to adopt the U.S. dollar as its official currency Although dollarization has brought price stability to El Salvador, it has also made El Salvador’s clothing manufacturing industry less competitive. The reason is that its Central American neighbors, Honduras and Nicaragua, regularly devalue their currencies against the U.S. dollar to gain a competitive edge over U.S. manufacturers. As a result, labor costs for Fresco Group are more than twice as much as those in Nicaragua and about 40% higher than those in Honduras. Transportation costs in El Salvador are also higher.

Fresco Group has responded to its high labor costs by transforming its business. In 2001, Fresco simply sewed together orders of jeans, underwear, and T-shirts for U.S. customers who transported the finished goods to the United States. Now, Fresco creates designs, procures materials, and manufactures higher-priced garments based on a single sketch. Its logistics team includes shipping and customs specialists who can speed delivery of finished goods directly to U.S. warehouses and retail stores in half the time it takes Asian rivals. By significantly improving both its ability to produce finished products and its customer response time, Fresco Group has managed to move into higher-end niche markets where currency problems matter less and to increase its revenue by an average of 30% for every piece of clothing it sells.

Production Management of Exchange Risk

Sometimes exchange rates move so much that pricing or other marketing strategies cannot save the product. This was the case for U.S. firms in the early 1980s and again in the 1990s and for Japanese firms in the early 1990s as well as the 2000s. Firms facing this situation must either drop uncompetitive products or cut their costs.

Product sourcing and plant location are the principal variables that companies manipulate to manage competitive risks that cannot be dealt with through marketing changes alone. Consider, for example, the possible responses of U.S. firms to a strong dollar. The basic strategy would involve shifting the firm’s manufacturing base overseas, but this can be accomplished in more than one way.

Input Mix.

Outright additions to facilities overseas naturally accomplish a manufacturing shift. A more flexible solution is to change the input mix by purchasing more components overseas. Following the rise of the dollar in the early 1980s, most U.S. companies increased their global sourcing. For example, Caterpillar responded to the soaring U.S. dollar and a tenacious competitor, Japans Komatsu, by “shopping the world” for components. More than 50% of the pistons that Caterpillar uses in the United States now come from abroad, mainly from a Brazilian company. Some work previously done by Caterpillar’s Milwaukee plant was moved in 1984 to a subsidiary in Mexico. Caterpillar also stopped most U.S. production of lift trucks and began importing a new line—complete with Cat’s yellow paint and logo—from South Korea’s Daewoo.

Application Japanese Automakers Outsource to Cope with a Rising Yen

Japanese automakers have protected themselves against the rising yen by purchasing a significant percentage of intermediate components from independent suppliers. This practice, called outsourcing, gives them the flexibility to shift purchases of intermediate inputs toward suppliers with costs least affected by exchange rate changes. Some of these inputs come from South Korea and Taiwan, nations whose currencies have been closely linked to the U.S. dollar. Thus, even if such intermediate goods are not priced in dollars, their yen-equivalent prices tend to decline with the dollar and, thereby, lessen the impact of a falling dollar on the cost of Japanese cars sold in the United States.

Outsourcing in countries whose currencies are linked to the currency of the export market also creates competitive pressures on domestic suppliers of the same intermediate goods. To cope in such an environment, domestic suppliers must themselves have flexible arrangements with their own input suppliers. In many cases, these smaller firms can survive because they have greater ability to recontract their costs than do the larger firms specializing in assembly and distribution. When the suppliers are faced with the reality of an exchange rate change that reduces the competitive price of their outputs, they are able to recontract with their own inputs (typically by lowering wages) to reduce costs sufficiently to remain economically viable.

One outsourcing strategy that is unlikely to improve competitiveness is to force suppliers to invoice in a different currency. Consider the situation faced by Airbus in 2008. Its new A350 XWB long-haul widebody is priced in dollars—the global currency of aircraft sales—but it is largely manufactured in Europe, where its costs are set in euros and pounds. In order to offset the effects of dollar weakness against the euro and pound, Airbus decided to press its suppliers to price their equipment in dollars. However, suppliers are likely to just take their local currency prices and convert them into dollars (rationally, as we saw in the previous chapter, at the forward rate), thereby resulting in no savings at all to Airbus. A more workable solution to improve Airbus margins would be to shift some production to the United States, as suggested by its CEO—much to the dismay of French government officials.

Shifting Production Among Plants.

Multinational firms with worldwide production systems can allocate production among their several plants in line with the changing dollar costs of production, increasing production in a nation whose currency has devalued and decreasing production in a country where there has been a revaluation. Contrary to conventional wisdom, therefore, multinational firms may well be subject to less exchange risk than an exporter, given the MNC’s greater ability to adjust its production (and marketing) operations on a global basis, in line with changing relative production costs.

A good example of this flexibility is provided by Westinghouse Electric Corporation of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Westinghouse can quote its customers prices from numerous foreign affiliates: gas turbines from Canada, generators from Spain, circuit breakers and robotics from Britain, and electrical equipment from Brazil. Its sourcing decisions take into account both the effect of currency values and subsidized export financing available from foreign governments.

The theoretical ability to shift production is more limited in reality, depending on many factors, not the least of which is the power of the local labor unions involved. However, the innovative nature of the typical MNC means a continued generation of new products. The sourcing of those new products among the firm’s various plants can certainly be done with an eye to the costs involved.

A strategy of productkm shifting presupposes that the MNC has already created a portfolio of plants worldwide. For example, as part of its global sourcing strategy, Caterpillar now has dual sources, domestic and foreign, for some products. These sources allow Caterpillar to “load” the plant that offers the best economies of production, given exchange rates at any moment. But multiple plants also create manufacturing redundancies and impede cost cutting.

The cost of multiple sourcing is especially great when there are economies of scale that would ordinarily dictate the establishment of only one or two plants to service the global market. But most firms have found that in a world of uncertainty, significant benefits may be derived from production diversification. In effect, having redundant capacity is the equivalent of buying an option to execute volume shifts fairly easily. As in the case of currency options, the value of such a real option increases with the volatility of the exchange rate. Hence, despite the higher unit costs associated with smaller plants and excess capacity, currency risk may provide one more reason for the use of multiple production facilities. Indeed, 63% of foreign exchange managers surveyed cited having locations “to increase flexibility by shifting plant loading when exchange rates changed” as a factor in international siting.7

The auto industry illustrates the potential value of maintaining a globally balanced distribution of production facilities in the face of fluctuating exchange rates. For Japanese and Swedish auto manufacturers, which historically located all their factories domestically, it has been feast or famine. When the home currency appreciates, as in the 1970s or the late 1980s and early 1990s, the firms’ exports suffer from a lack of cost competitiveness. On the other hand, a real depreciation of the home currency, as in the early 1980s, is a time of high profits.

By contrast, Ford and General Motors, with their worldwide manufacturing facilities, have substantial leeway in reallocating various stages of production among their several plants in line with relative production and transportation costs. For example, Ford can shift production among the United States, Spain, Germany, Great Britain, Brazil, and Mexico.

7 Donald B. Lessard, “Survey on Corporate Responses to Volatile Exchange Rates,” working paper, MIT Sloan School of Management, 1990.

Plant Location.

A firm without foreign facilities that is exporting to a competitive market whose currency has devalued may find that sourcing components abroad is insufficient to maintain unit profitability. Despite its previous hesitancy, the firm may have to locate new plants abroad. For example, the economic response by the Japanese to the strong yen was to build new plants in the United States as opposed to expanding plants in Japan. Similarly, German automakers such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz have built plants in the United States to shield themselves from currency fluctuations. In 2007, Volkswagen announced it was considering building a new plant in the United States to hedge against a strong euro by offsetting its dollar revenues with dollar costs.

Third-country plant locations are also a viable alternative in many cases, depending especially on the labor intensity of production or the projections for further monetary realignments. Many Japanese firms, for example, have shifted production offshore—to Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and other developing nations, as well as to the United States—in order to cope with the high yen. Japanese automakers have been particularly aggressive in making these shifts. Moving production offshore can be a mixed blessing, however. Although it makes companies less vulnerable to a strong yen, it means less of a payoff if the yen declines. For example, when the yen began to weaken in 1995, Japanese manufacturers with foreign production facilities found they could not take full advantage of the yen’s fall.

Raising Productivity.

Many U.S. companies assaulted by foreign competition made prodigious efforts to improve their productivity—closing inefficient plants, automating heavily, and negotiating wage and benefit cutbacks and work-rule concessions with unions. Many also began programs to heighten productivity and improve product quality through employee motivation. These cost cuts stood U.S. firms in good stead as they tried to use the weaker dollar that began in 2002 to gain back market share lost to foreign competitors.

Another way to improve productivity and lower one’s cost structure is to revise product offerings. This is the route now being taken by the Japanese. Despite their vaunted super-lean production systems, many Japanese firms, in an attempt to gain market share, have created too much product variety and offered too many options to customers. The result is that parts makers and assembly plants have to accommodate very small and very rare orders too frequently. This variety requires too much design work, too much capital investment for small-volume parts, too many parts inventories, and constant equipment setups and changeovers. By slashing variety to the 20% or so of models and product variations that account for 80% of sales and profits and by reducing unique parts by 30% to 50% for new models, Japanese companies are finding that they can dramatically reduce costs without sacrificing much in the way of market share.

Application Nissan Reverses Course

In 1993, Nissan renounced a decade-long quest to build cars in ever more sizes, colors, and functions to cater to every conceivable consumer whim. That effort had spun out of control. For the 1993 model lineup alone, Nissan offered 437 different kinds of dashboard meters, 110 types of radiators, 1,200 types of floor carpets, and more than 300 varieties of ashtrays. Its Laurel model alone had 87 variations of steering wheels and 62 varieties of wiring harnesses (which link up electrical components in a car). To assemble these vehicles, Nissan used more than 6,000 different fasteners.

The payoff from this product proliferation was pathetic. Nissan engineers discovered that 70 of the 87 types of steering wheels accounted for just 5% of the Laurel’s sales. Overall, 50% of Nissan’s model variations contributed only about 5% of total sales.

Nissan ordered its designers to reduce the number of unique parts in its vehicles by 40%. Model variations, which had ballooned to more than 2,200, were rolled back 50%. The goal of this reformation was to reduce annual production costs by at least ¥200 billion ($2 billion at an exchange rate of ¥100/$1). These production cost savings helped Nissan maintain its profitability as it cut its prices in the United States to remain competitive in the face of a surging yen.

Planning for Exchange Rate Changes

The marketing and production strategies advocated thus far assume knowledge of exchange rate changes. Even if currency changes are unpredictable, however, contingency plans can be made. This planning involves developing several plausible currency scenarios (see Section 11.4, p. 420), analyzing the effects of each scenario on the firm’s competitive position, and deciding on strategies to deal with these possibilities.

When a currency change actually occurs, the firm is able to quickly adjust its marketing and production strategies in line with the plan. Given the substantial costs of gathering and processing information, a firm should focus on scenarios that have a high probability of occurrence and that also would have a strong impact on the firm.

Application Kodak Plans for Currency Changes

Historically, Eastman Kodak focused its exchange risk management efforts on hedging near-term transactions. It now looks at exchange rate movements from a strategic perspective. Kodak’s moment of truth came in the early 1980s when the strong dollar enabled overseas rivals such as Fuji Photo Film of Japan to cut prices and make significant inroads into its market share. This episode convinced Kodak that it had been defining its currency risk too narrowly. It appointed a new foreign exchange planning director, David Fiedler, at the end of 1985. According to Fiedler, “We were finding a lot of things that didn’t fit our definition [of exposure] very well, and yet would have a real economic impact on the corporation.”8 To make sure such risks no longer go unrecognized, Fiedler now spends about 25% of his time briefing Kodak’s operating managers on foreign exchange planning, advising them on everything from sourcing alternatives to market pricing. Kodak’s new approach figured in a 1988 decision against putting a factory in Mexico. Kodak decided to locate the plant elsewhere because of its assessment of the peso’s relative strength. In the past, currency risk would have been ignored in such project assessments. According to Kodak’s chief financial officer, before their reassessment of the company’s foreign exchange risk management policy, its financial officers “would do essentially nothing to assess the possible exchange impact until it got to the point of signing contracts for equipment.”9

The ability to plan for volatile exchange rates has fundamental implications for exchange risk management because there is no longer such a thing as the “natural” or “equilibrium” rate. Rather, there is a sequence of equilibrium rates, each of which has its own implications for corporate strategy. Success in such an environment—in which change is the only constant—depends on a company’s ability to react to change within a shorter time horizon than ever before. To cope, companies must develop competitive options—such as outsourcing, flexible manufacturing systems, a global network of production facilities, and shorter product cycles.

In a volatile world, these investments in flexibility are likely to yield high returns. For example, flexible manufacturing systems permit faster production response times to shifting market demand. Similarly, foreign facilities, even if they are uneconomical at the moment, can pay off by enabling companies to shift production in response to changing exchange rates or other relative cost shocks.

The greatest boost to competitiveness comes from compressing the time it takes to bring new and improved products to market. The edge a company gets from shorter product cycles is dramatic: Not only can it charge a premium price for its exclusive products, but it can also incorporate more up-to-date technology in its goods and respond faster to emerging market niches and changes in taste.

With better planning and more competitive options, corporations can now change their strategies substantially before the impact of any currency change can make itself felt. As a result, the adjustment period following a large exchange rate change has been compressed dramatically. The 100% appreciation of the Japanese yen against the dollar from 1985 to 1988, for example, sparked some changes in Japanese corporate strategy that have proven to be long lasting: increased production in the United States and East Asia to cope with the high yen and to protect their foreign markets from any trade backlash; purchase of more parts overseas to take advantage of lower costs; upscaling to reduce the price sensitivity of their products and broaden their markets; massive cost-reduction programs in their Japanese plants, with a long-term impact on production technology; and an increase in joint ventures between competitors.

Application Toshiba Copes with a Rising Yen by Cutting Costs

By 1988, Toshiba’s cost cutting reduced its cost-to-sales ratio to where it was before the yen began rising. The company shifted production of lowtech products to developing nations and moved domestic production to high-value-added products. At a VCR plant outside of Tokyo, it halved the number of assembly-line workers by minimizing inventories and simplifying operations. Other cost-reducing international activities included production of color picture tubes with Westinghouse in the United States, photocopier production in a joint venture with Rhone-Poulenc in France, assembly of videocassette recorders in Tennessee, production of similar VCRs in Germany, and establishment of a new plant in California for assembling and testing telephones and medical electronics equipment. Overall, Toshiba is estimated to have saved ¥115 billion to ¥53 billion by redesigning products, ¥47 billion in parts cutbacks and lower raw material costs, and ¥15 billion in greater operating efficiency. Similarly, by 1989, with the dollar around ¥125, Fujitsu Fanuc, a robot maker, had streamlined itself so thoroughly and differentiated its products so effectively that it estimated it could break even with only a fifth of its plant in use and a dollar down to ¥70.

In the early 2000s, Japanese companies once again faced a rising yen (¥107/$ by 2005). And once again they coped—by restructuring to become more efficient, focusing on higher-end products, and shifting production of lower-end products to China. For example, Ricoh, the Japanese copier company, cut the cost of its liquid-crystal operation panels from ¥12,000 in 1994 to ¥8,000 in 2004, while making them more sophisticated. Ricoh is also monitoring sales in real time to adjust production volume every week, thereby reducing its stock of copiers that will be outdated when a new version supersedes it; previously, it adjusted production every month. Similar actions by other Japanese companies have ensured that they can profit even if the dollar buys less than ¥100.

8 Quoted in Christopher J. Chipello, “The Market Watcher,” Wall Street Journal, September 23, 1988, p. 14.

9 Ibid.

Financial Management of Exchange Risk

The one attribute that all the strategic marketing and production adjustments have in common is that accomplishing them in a cost-effective manner takes time. The role of financial management in this process is to structure the firm’s liabilities in such a way that during the time the strategic operational adjustments are under way, the reduction in asset earnings is matched by a corresponding decrease in the cost of servicing these liabilities.

One possibility is to finance the portion of a firm’s assets used to create export profits so that any shortfall in operating cash flows caused by an exchange rate change is offset by a reduction in debt-servicing expenses. For example, a firm that has developed a sizable export market should hold a portion of its liabilities in that country’s currency. The portion to be held in the foreign currency depends on the size of the loss in profitability associated with a given currency change. No more definite recommendations are possible because the currency effects will vary from one company to another.

Volkswagen is a case in point. To hedge its operating exposure, VW should have used dollar financing in proportion to its net dollar cash flow from U.S. sales. This strategy would have cushioned the impact of the DM revaluation that almost brought VW to its knees. For the longer term, however, VW could manage its competitive exposure only by developing new products with lower price elasticities of demand and by establishing production facilities in lower-cost nations. Evidently, both DaimlerChrysler and Porsche have learned Volkswagen’s lesson as to the importance of hedging, as shown in the accompanying application and mini-case.

Application DaimlerChrysler Hedges Its Operating Exposure

In August 2003, DaimlerChrysler AG acknowledged that more than half its second-quarter operating profit was generated by foreign exchange hedging transactions. In July, the automaker had reported a quarterly operating profit of €641 million, beating analyst expectations. At the time, the company said that currency trading activities to reduce the effect of the euro’s rise against the dollar had had a positive effect but did not provide details. The August admission that €350 million of its operating profit came from currency trades indicated that the company made more money on foreign exchange than it did from selling cars. Analysts said that these hedging gains explained how DaimlerChrysler managed to hold its profit margins despite a brutal price war in North America and the euro’s rise against the dollar, yen, and other currencies. Analysts said DaimlerChrysler deserved credit for managing the effects of the dollar’s decline but that it was a worrying sign if 50% of its operating profit is coming from currency trading.

Mini-Case Porsche Revs Up Its Results

The strong euro dented the profits of most European automakers in 2004, but Porsche found a way to turbocharge its profits—despite the fact that Porsche has greater exposure to currency risk than most of its peers. Unlike Mercedes or BMW, both of which have U.S. plants, Porsche makes its cars entirely in Europe but generates 40% to 45% of its sales revenue in the United States. For Porsche, therefore, the inability to cope with a strong euro by switching production from domestic to foreign plants places an extra burden on financial hedging. Porsche’s use of hedging explains its profits in the face of a weak dollar. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Goldman Sachs, for one, estimates that as much as 75% of the company’s pretax profits—or up to €800 million ($1.07 billion) of the €1.1 billion Porsche reported for the fiscal year that ended July 31 [2004]—came from skillfully executing currency options.”10 In effect, Porsche bought put options on the dollar enabling it to sell dollars for euros at a low price for the euro. Although hedging is usually done to smooth out short-term earnings, in Porsche’s case, hedging was used strategically on a long-term basis. Specifically, as of 2004, Porsche claimed to be fully hedged through July 31, 2007, and was looking to extend its protection well beyond that date.11 Presumably, Porsche was accounting for the length of time it would take to make the necessary strategic adjustments to adapt to the difficult competitive position a strong euro has put it in.


1. Why does Porsche face more operating exposure than Mercedes or BMW?

2. Is Porsche really fully hedged through July 31, 2007? Suppose that gains on all its outstanding options were included in reported earnings for its fiscal year ended July 31, 2004.

3. Why would analysts be nervous if up to 75% of Porsche’s pretax profit for fiscal year 2004 came from gains on foreign currency options?

The implementation of a hedging policy is likely to be quite difficult in practice, if only because the specific cash-flow effects of a given currency change are hard to predict. Trained personnel are required to implement and monitor an active hedging program. Consequently, hedging should be undertaken only when the effects of anticipated exchange rate changes are expected to be significant.

A highly simplified example can illustrate the application of the financing rule developed previously—namely, that the liability structure of the combined MNC—parent and subsidiaries—should be set up in such a way that any change in the inflow on assets resulting from a currency change should be matched by a corresponding change in the outflow on the liabilities used to fund those assets. Consider the effect of a local currency (LC) change on the subsidiary depicted in Exhibit 11.12. In the absence of any exchange rate changes, the subsidiary is forecast to have an operating profit of $800,000. If a predicted 20% devaluation of the local currency from LC 1 = $0.25 to LC 1 = $0.20 occurs, the subsidiary’s LC profitability is expected to rise to LC 3.85 million from LC 3.2 million because of price increases. However, that LC profit rise still entails a loss of $30,000, despite a reduction in the dollar cost of production.

Suppose the subsidiary requires assets equaling LC 20 million, or $5 million at the current exchange rate. It can finance these assets by borrowing dollars at 8% and converting them into their local currency equivalent, or it can use LC funds at 10%. How can the parent structure its subsidiary’s financing in such a way that a 20% devaluation will reduce the cost of servicing the subsidiary’s liabilities by $30,000 and thus balance operating losses with a decrease in cash outflows?

Actually, a simple procedure is readily available. If S is the dollar outflow on local debt service, then it is necessary that 0.2S, the dollar gain on devaluation, equal $30,000, the operating loss on devaluation. Hence, S = $150,000, or LC 600,000 at the current exchange rate. At a local currency interest rate of 10%, that debt-service amount corresponds to local currency debt of LC 6 million. The remaining LC 14 million can be provided by borrowing $3.5 million. Exhibit 11.13 illustrates the offsetting cash effects associated with such a financial structure.

Exhibit 11.12 Statement of Projected Cash Flow

This example would certainly become more complex if the effects of taxes, depreciation, and working capital were included. Although the execution becomes more difficult, a rough equivalence between operating losses (gains) and debt-service gains (losses) can still be achieved as long as all cash flows are accounted for. The inclusion of other foreign operations just requires the aggregation of the cash-flow effects over all affiliates because the MNC’s total exchange risk is based on the sum of the changes of the profit contributions of each individual subsidiary.

Exhibit 11.13 Effect of Financial Structure on Net Cash Flow

As mentioned earlier, this approach concentrates exclusively on risk reduction rather than on cost reduction. When financial market imperfections are significant, a firm might consider exposing itself to more exchange risk in order to lower its expected financing costs.

Application South Korean Companies and Banks Mismatch Their Currencies

An important contributing factor to the magnitude of the collapse of the South Korean won was the currency mismatch faced by Korean companies and banks. Specifically, Korean banks lent huge amounts of won to the Korean chaebol, or conglomerates. The banks, in turn, financed their loans by borrowing dollars, yen, and other foreign currencies. The chaebol also borrowed large amounts of foreign currencies and invested the proceeds in giant industrial projects both at home and abroad. Considering how highly leveraged the chaebol already were, with debt-to-equity ratios on the order of 10:1, everything had to go right in order for them to be able to service their debts. When the won lost 40% of its value against the dollar during 1997, the chaebol had difficulty servicing their debts and many of them became insolvent. To the extent the Korean banks continued to receive won interest and debt repayments from the chaebol, devaluation of the won meant that the banks’ won cash flows were insufficient to service their foreign debts. Similarly, although the chaebol’s overseas projects were expected to generate foreign exchange to service their dollar debts, these projects turned out to be ill-conceived money losers. With both banks and chaebol scrambling to come up with dollars to service their foreign debts, the won was put under additional pressure and fell further, exacerbating the problems faced by Korean borrowers. In the last three months of 1997, eight out of the 30 largest chaebol went bankrupt.

Mini-Case A Strong Real Hurts Embraer

In August 2003, Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica SA (Embraer) of Brazil, the world’s fourth-largest aircraft maker, reported that net income had fallen by 87% for the second quarter, despite recent multibillion-dollar orders from JetBlue and US Airways, because of Brazil’s stronger currency and foreign-exchange hedging losses. Embraer President Mauricio Botelho said that the company was “strongly hit by two factors beyond our control.” He pointed out that the Brazilian real had appreciated by about 18% against the dollar during the quarter and that this had adversely affected Embraer. Embraer said that the appreciation raised its cost of goods sold, as well as its operating costs such as those for research and development and selling, general, and administrative expenses. At the same time, nearly all of Embraer’s revenue came from exports. Its primary competitor in the regional jet market, Embraer’s specialty, is Canadas Bombardier; to a lesser extent, Boeing and Airbus are also competitors. However, the biggest impact of the rising real came from $85 million in losses on currency swaps that Embraer used to convert its dollar-denominated liabilities into reais as a hedge. Embraer also lost money when Brazil’s main export-credit agency, BNDES, delayed paying for $397 million in outstanding receivables. By the time BNDES made the payment, the real’s strength meant that Embraer received fewer reais. In addition, BNDES had still not paid for $211 million of receivables for jets already delivered. Payments in reais are made at the spot rate in effect at the time of the payment.


1. What factors affect Embraer’s operating exposure? Why did the real’s appreciation reduce Embraer’s operating profits?

2. Did Embraer decrease or increase its currency risk by hedging its dollar liabilities? Explain.

3. How can Embraer use financial hedging to reduce its currency risk?

4. Suppose that Embraer’s $608 million in dollar receivables mentioned earlier were outstanding at the beginning of the second quarter and that payment for $397 million was not received until the end of the quarter. The remaining $211 million was still outstanding at the end of the quarter. With an 18% real appreciation during the quarter, how much of a dollar loss would Embraer take on these receivables? In performing this calculation, consider that Embraer must first translate its dollar receivables into reais and then convert any loss measured in reais back into dollars.

Application Avon Is Calling in Asia

The currency turmoil in Asia in 1997 was unexpected, but Avon Products was prepared to deal with it. An examination of what Avon did before the crisis and how it responded afterward illustrates many of the principles of managing operating exposure. It also provides insights into the role of financial officers as key members of strategic management teams.

Avon has a long history of international operations. As a general rule, Avon tries to hedge its currency risk by buying almost all its raw materials and making nearly all its products in the markets in which they are sold. For example, Avon Asia-Pacific has factories that make cosmetics in its largest markets—China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Japan—and contracts out production in six other Asian countries. It further hedged its currency risk by financing its local operations with local currency loans. Altogether, the 10 Asian countries in which Avon operated accounted for $751 million of its $4.8 billion in revenue in 1996.

When the crisis began in Thailand in July 1997, Avon’s executives did not anticipate that Thailand’s problems would spread but as a precaution decided to further reduce currency risk by having the Asian units remit earnings weekly instead of monthly. By late August, however, the currency markets got nervous after the remarks of Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who complained that Asia’s economic crisis was provoked by an international cabal of Jewish financiers intent on derailing the regions growth. The head of Avon’s Asia-Pacific region, Jose Ferriera, Jr., also considered the possibility that other Asian countries would have to allow their currencies to depreciate to maintain their export competitiveness. In response, Avon decided to sell about $50 million worth of five Asian currencies forward against the dollar for periods of up to 15 months.

Having done what it could financially, Avon then turned to its operating strategy. Anticipating tough times ahead, Avon Asia-Pacific decided to redirect its marketing budget to hire more salespeople in Asia to bring in more customers rather than offering incentives to the existing sales force to get its current, cash-strapped customers to spend more money. Ferriera also urged his country managers to step up their purchase of local materials whenever possible and not allow local vendors to pass on all of their cost increases. At the same time, Avon began planning to compete more aggressively against disadvantaged competitors who have to import their products and raw materials. Finally, Avon began to analyze the incremental profits it could realize by using its Asian factories to supply more of the noncosmetic products sold in the United States. Avon Asia-Pacific was helped by a team of Latin American executives who traveled to Asia to share their experiences of how they had managed to cope in similar circumstances of currency turmoil in their countries. For example, during the Mexican crisis of 1994 and 1995, prices were raised slowly on price-sensitive brands aimed at low- and middle-income customers. Avon Mexico raised prices on premium brands much faster, since those brands were less price sensitive and competed with imports whose prices had doubled with the peso devaluation.

In all of these deliberations and decisions, Avon Treasurer Dennis Ling was a full and active participant. For example, he helped the head of Avon’s jewelry business renegotiate the terms of its contract with a Korean company that supplies jewelry for sale in the United States. The result was a substantial price discount based on the won’s steep decline against the dollar. According to Ling, “Part of my job is to help our managers of operations understand and take advantage of the impact of currencies on their business.”12

Mini-Case Laker Airways Crashes and Burns

The crash of Sir Freddie Laker’s Skytrain had little to do with the failure of its navigational equipment or its landing gear; indeed, it can largely be attributed to misguided management decisions. Laker’s management erred in selecting the financing mode for the acquisition of the aircraft fleet that would accommodate the booming transatlantic business spearheaded by Sir Freddie’s sound concept of a “no-frill, low-fare, stand-by” air travel package.

In 1981, Laker was a highly leveraged firm with a debt of more than $400 million. The debt resulted from the financing provided by the U.S. Eximbank and the U.S. aircraft manufacturer McDonnell Douglas. As most major airlines do, Laker Airways incurred three major categories of cost: (1) fuel, typically paid for in U.S. dollars (even though the United Kingdom is more than self-sufficient in oil); (2) operating costs incurred in sterling (administrative expenses and salaries), but with a nonnegligible dollar cost component (advertising and booking in the United States); and (3) financing costs from the purchase of U.S.-made aircraft, denominated in dollars. Revenues accruing from the sale of transatlantic airfare were about evenly divided between sterling and dollars. The dollar fares, however, were based on the assumption of a rate of $2.25 to the pound. The imbalance in the currency denomination of cash flows (dollar-denominated cash outflows far exceeding dollar-denominated cash inflows) left Laker vulnerable to a sterling depreciation below the budgeted exchange rate of £1 = $2.25. Indeed, the dramatic plunge of the exchange rate to £1 = $1.60 over the 1981 to 1982 period brought Laker Airways to default.


1. What were the key components of Laker Airways’ operating exposure?

2. What options did it have to hedge its operating exposure?

3. Could Laker have hedged its “natural” dollar liability exposure?

4. Should Laker have financed its purchase of DC 10 aircraft by borrowing sterling from a British bank rather than using the dollar-denominated financing supplied by McDonnell Douglas and the Eximbank? Consider the fact that Eximbank, a U.S. government agency, subsidized this financing in order to promote U.S. exports.

10 Stephen Power, “Porsche Powers Profit With Currency Plays,” the Wall Street Journal December 8, 2004, C3.

11 Ibid.

12 Fred R. Bleakley, “How U.S. Firm Copes with Asian Crisis,” Wall Street Journal, December 26, 1997, p. A2.

11.7 Summary and Conclusions

In this chapter, we examined the concept of exposure to exchange rate changes from the perspective of the economist. We saw that the accounting profession’s focus on the balance sheet impact of currency changes has led accountants to ignore the more important effect that these changes may have on future cash flows. We also saw that to measure exposure properly, we must focus on inflation-adjusted, or real, exchange rates instead of on nominal, or actual, exchange rates. Therefore, economic exposure has been defined as the extent to which the value of a firm is affected by currency fluctuations, inclusive of price-level changes. Thus, any accounting measure that focuses on the firm’s past activities and decisions, as reflected in its current balance sheet accounts, is likely to be misleading.

Although exchange risk is conceptually easy to identify, it is difficult in practice to determine what the actual economic impact of a currency change will be. For a given firm, this impact depends on a great number of variables including the location of its major markets and competitors, supply and demand elasticities, substitutability of inputs, and offsetting inflation.

Finally, we concluded that since currency risk affects all facets of a company’s operations, it should not be the concern of financial managers alone. Operating managers, in particular, should develop marketing and production initiatives that help ensure profitability over the long run. They should also devise anticipatory or proactive, rather than reactive, strategic alternatives in order to gain competitive leverage internationally.

The key to effective exposure management is to integrate currency considerations into the general management process. One approach that many MNCs use to develop the necessary coordination among executives responsible for different aspects of exchange risk management is to establish a committee for managing foreign currency exposure. Besides financial executives, such committees should—and often do—include the senior officers of the company such as the vice president-international, top marketing and production executives, the director of corporate planning, and the chief executive officer. This arrangement is desirable because top executives are exposed to the problems of exchange risk management, so they can incorporate currency expectations into their own decisions.

In this kind of integrated exchange risk program, the role of the financial executive is fourfold: (1) to provide local operating management with forecasts of inflation and exchange rates, (2) to identify and highlight the risks of competitive exposure, (3) to structure evaluation criteria so that operating managers are not rewarded or penalized for the effects of unanticipated currency changes, and (4) to estimate and hedge whatever operating exposure remains after the appropriate marketing and production strategies have been put in place.


1. a. Define exposure, differentiating between accounting and economic exposure. What role does inflation play? b. Describe at least three circumstances under which economic exposure is likely to exist.

c. Of what relevance are the international Fisher effect and purchasing power parity to your answers to Parts a and b?

d. What is exchange risk, as distinct from exposure?

e. Under what circumstances might multinational firms be less subject to exchange risk than purely domestic firms in the same industry?

2. The sharp decline of the U.S. dollar between 1985 and 1995 significantly improved the profitability of U.S. firms both at home and abroad.

a. In what sense was this profit improvement false prosperity?

b. How would you incorporate the decline in the dollar in evaluating management performance? In making investment decisions?

c. Comment on the following statement: “The sharp appreciation of the U.S. dollar during the early 1980s might have been the best thing that ever happened to American industry.”

3. What marketing and production techniques can firms initiate to cope with exchange risk?

4. What is the role of finance in protecting against exchange risk?

5. E & J Gallo is the largest vintner in the United States. It gets its grapes in California (some of which it grows itself) and sells its wines throughout the United States. Does Gallo face currency risk? Why and how?

6. Chrysler exports vans from the United States to Europe in competition with the Japanese. Similarly, Compaq exports computers to Europe. However, all of Compaq’s biggest competitors are American companies—IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Tandem. Assuming all else is equal, which of these companies—Chrysler or Compaq—is likely to benefit more from a weak dollar? Explain.

7. In 1994, the Singapore dollar rose by 9% in real terms against the U.S. dollar. What was the likely impact of the strong Singapore dollar on U.S. electronics manufacturers using Singapore as an export platform? Consider the following facts: On average, materials and components—85% of which are purchased abroad—account for about 60% of product costs; labor accounts for an additional 15%; and other operating costs account for the remaining 25%.

8. Di Giorgio International, a subsidiary of California-based Di Giorgio Corporation, processes fruit juices and packages condiments in Turnhout, Belgium. It buys Brazilian orange concentrate in dollars, British apples in pounds, Italian peaches in euros, and cartons in Danish kroner. At the same time, it exports 85% of its production. Assess Di Giorgio International’s currency risk and determine how it can structure its financing to reduce this risk.

9. A U.S. company needs to borrow $100 million for a period of seven years. It can issue dollar debt at 7% or yen debt at 3%.

a. Suppose the company is a multinational firm with sales in the United States and inputs purchased in Japan. How should this affect its financing choice?

b. Suppose the company is a multinational firm with sales in Japan and inputs that are determined primarily in dollars. How should this affect its financing choice?

10. Huaneng Power International is a large Chinese company that runs coal-fired power plants in five provinces and in Shanghai. It has close to $1.2 billion in U.S. dollar debt whose proceeds it has used to purchase equipment abroad.

a. What currency risks does Huaneng face?

b. Do its lenders face any currency risks? Explain.


1. Hilton International is considering investing in a new Swiss hotel. The required initial investment is $1.5 million (or SFr 2.38 million at the current exchange rate of $0.63 = SFr 1). Profits for the first 10 years will be reinvested, at which time Hilton will sell out to its partner. Based on projected earnings, Hilton’s share of this hotel will be worth SFr 3.88 million in 10 years.

a. What factors are relevant in evaluating this investment?

b. How will fluctuations in the value of the Swiss franc affect this investment?

c. How would you forecast the $:SFr exchange rate 10 years ahead?

2. A proposed foreign investment involves a plant whose entire output of 1 million units per annum is to be exported. With a selling price of $10 per unit, the yearly revenue from this investment equals $10 million. At the present rate of exchange, dollar costs of local production equal $6 per unit. A 10% devaluation is expected to lower unit costs by $0.30, while a 15% devaluation will reduce these costs by an additional $0.15. Suppose a devaluation of either 10% or 15% is likely, with respective probabilities of 0.4 and 0.2 (the probability of no currency change is 0.4). Depreciation at the current exchange rate equals $1 million annually, and the local tax rate is 40%.

a. What will annual dollar cash flows be if no devaluation occurs?

b. Given the currency scenario described here, what is the expected value of annual after-tax dollar cash flows assuming no repatriation of profits to the United States?

3. Mucho Macho is the leading beer in Patagonia, with a 65% share of the market. Because of trade barriers, it faces essentially no import competition. Exports account for less than 2% of sales. Although some of its raw material is bought overseas, the large majority of the value added is provided by locally supplied goods and services. Over the past five years, Patagonian prices have risen by 300%, and U.S. prices have risen by about 10%. During this time period, the value of the Patagonian peso has dropped from P 1 = $1.00 to P 1 = $0.50.

a. What has happened to the real value of the peso over the past five years? Has it gone up or down? A little or a lot?

b. What has the high inflation over the past five years likely done to Mucho Macho’s peso profits? Has it moved profits up or down? A lot or a little? Explain.

c. Based on your answer to Part a, what has been the likely effect of the change in the peso’s real value on Mucho Macho’s peso profits converted into dollars? Have dollar-equivalent profits gone up or down? A lot or a little? Explain.

d. Mucho Macho has applied for a dollar loan to finance its expansion. Were you to look solely at its past financial statements in judging its creditworthiness, what would be your likely response to Mucho Macho’s dollar loan request?

e. What foreign exchange risk would such a dollar loan face? Explain.

4. In 1990, General Electric acquired Tungsram Ltd., a Hungarian lightbulb manufacturer. Hungary’s inflation rate was 28% in 1990 and 35% in 1991, while the forint (Hungary’s currency) was devalued 5% and 15%, respectively, during those years. Corresponding inflation for the United States was 6.1% in 1990 and 3.1% in 1991.

a. What happened to the competitiveness of GE’s Hungarian operations during 1990 and 1991? Explain.

b. In early 1992, GE announced that it would cut back its capital investment in Tungsram. What might have been the purpose of GE’s publicly announced cutback?

5. In 1985, Japan Airlines (JAL) bought $3 billion of foreign exchange contracts at ¥180/$1 over 11 years to hedge its purchases of U.S. aircraft. By 1994, with the yen at about ¥100/$1, JAL had incurred over $1 billion in cumulative foreign exchange losses on that deal.

a. What was the likely economic rationale behind JAL’s hedges?

b. Did JAL’s forward contracts constitute an economic hedge? That is, is it likely that JAL’s losses on its forward contracts were offset by currency gains on its operations?

6. Nissan produces a car that sells in Japan for ¥1.8 million. On September 1, the beginning of the model year, the exchange rate is ¥150:$1. Consequently, Nissan sets the U.S. sticker price at $12,000. By October 1, the exchange rate has dropped to ¥125:$1. Nissan is concerned because it now receives only $12,000 × 125 = ¥1.5 million per U.S. sale.

a. What scenarios are consistent with the U.S. dollar’s depreciation?

b. What alternatives are open to Nissan to improve its situation?

c. How should Nissan respond in this situation?

d. Suppose that on November 1, the U.S. Federal Reserve intervenes to rescue the dollar, and the exchange rate adjusts to ¥220:$1 by the following July. What problems and/or opportunities does this situation present for Nissan and for General Motors?

7. Chemex, a U.S. maker of specialty chemicals, exports 40% of its $600 million in annual sales: 5% to Canada and 7% each to Japan, Britain, Germany, France, and Italy. It incurs all its costs in U.S. dollars, while most of its export sales are priced in the local currency.

a. How is Chemex affected by exchange rate changes?

b. Distinguish between Chemex’s transaction exposure and its operating exposure.

c. How can Chemex protect itself against transaction exposure?

d. What financial, marketing, and production techniques can Chemex use to protect itself against operating exposure?

e. Can Chemex eliminate its operating exposure by hedging its position every time it makes a foreign sale or by pricing all foreign sales in dollars? Why or why not?

8. During 1993, the Japanese yen appreciated by 11% against the dollar. In response to the lower cost of its main imported ingredients—beef, cheese, potatoes, and wheat for burger buns—McDonald’s Japanese affiliate reduced the price on certain set menus. For example, a cheeseburger, soda, and small order of french fries were marked down to ¥410 from ¥530. Suppose the higher yen lowered the cost of ingredients for this meal by ¥30.

a. How much of a volume increase is necessary to justify the price cut from ¥530 to ¥410? Assume that the previous profit margin (contribution to overhead) for this meal was ¥220. What is the implied price elasticity of demand associated with this necessary rise in demand?

b. Suppose sales volume of this meal rises by 60%. What will be the percentage change in McDonald’s dollar profit from this meal?

c. What other reasons might McDonald’s have had for cutting price besides raising its profits?

9. In 1990, a Japanese investor paid $100 million for an office building in downtown Los Angeles. At the time, the exchange rate was ¥145/$. When the investor went to sell the building five years later, in early 1995, the exchange rate was ¥85/$ and the building’s value had collapsed to $50 million.

a. What exchange risk did the Japanese investor face at the time of his purchase?

b. How could the investor have hedged his risk?

c. Suppose the investor financed the building with a 10% downpayment in yen and a 90% dollar loan accumulating interest at the rate of 8% per annum. Since this is a zero-coupon loan, the interest on it (along with the principal) is not due and payable until the building is sold. How much has the investor lost in yen terms? In dollar terms?

d. Suppose the investor financed the building with a 10% downpayment in yen and a 90% yen loan accumulating interest at the rate of 3% per annum. Since this is a zero-coupon loan, the interest on it (along with the principal) is not due and payable until the building is sold. How much has the investor lost in yen terms? In dollar terms?

10. Over the past year, China has experienced an inflation rate of about 22%, in contrast to U.S. inflation of about 3%. At the same time, the exchange rate has gone from Y8.7/U.S.$1 to Y8.3/U.S.$1.

a. What has happened to the real value of the yuan over the past year? Has it gone up or down? A little or a lot?

b. What are the likely effects of the change in the yuan’s real value on the dollar profits of a multinational company such as Procter & Gamble that sells almost exclusively in the local market? What can it do to cope with these effects?

c. What are the likely effects of the change in the yuan’s real value on the dollar profits of a textile manufacturer that exports most of its output to the United States? What can it do to cope with these effects?

Web Resources Web site that contains links to annual reports of more than 2,200 companies, many of which are multinationals.

Web Exercises

Review the annual reports of three MNCs found at

1. Is it obvious from their annual reports whether these companies are hedging their economic, transaction, or translation exposure?

2. Which currencies have these companies borrowed in besides the U.S. dollar? Do these foreign currency borrowings offset any obvious economic exposures they have in those currencies (e.g., because they have a subsidiary located in that country)?

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