Exporting issues – Managing foreign exchange risk

For any business looking to export internationally, a clear understanding of the company’s objectives and the resulting foreign exchange (FX) risk management implications is imperative.

What does exchange rate risk management mean for exporters?

When considering exporting, a key concern for any business is to manage and maintain the margin priced into the goods or services, even when it is sold in a different currency – which can be especially difficult in light of continuing wider economic uncertainty. When faced with the dual challenge of managing both the demand outlook and the currency risk, the main aspects to consider are:

  • setting budget rates and contract conversion rates at achievable levels in the market whilst remaining competitive
  • hedging where appropriate to lock in/maximise margin
  • managing currency risk on an ongoing basis through continued monitoring.

The underlying aim of managing FX risk in this manner is to build more flexibility into operations to remain agile and be able to respond to events.

Currency volatility

Large moves in the value of currencies are not uncommon and make the effective management of FX exposures more challenging. Furthermore, the speed and scale of currency fluctuations have undergone a step-change in recent years, and no currency (with the exception of pegged currencies) has been immune to this increased volatility.

Given the globalisation of supply chains, this volatility has been most marked in emerging market currencies (including Latin America, the Far East and Eastern Europe), making it even harder to manage. The South African rand, for instance, has seen a 30% fluctuation in the last two years.*

* Bloomberg, 2012.

At Barclays, we have seen a marked shift in behaviours among our clients, with a move away from the traditional reliance on spot and forward contracts towards greater use of a more balanced mix of FX options together with spot and forward FX contracts.

Exchange controls

Although there has been some liberalisation over recent years, many emerging markets still apply some form of exchange controls, and these can vary significantly in terms of impact. In Brazil, restrictions mean that although it is relatively simple to invest in the country, often you cannot easily repatriate funds. This means that businesses need to ensure that the legal set-up, including any contracts they sign, take exchange control requirements into consideration, including allowing for overseas payments.

Companies must also be aware that policies change. Kenya’s currency restrictions have already changed three times in 2012 making it even more important to have a banking partner who truly understands the nuances of the domestic market and can support with the most up-to-date guidance on country and counterparty restrictions.

Next steps

Managing currency risks has always been a complex and challenging task for businesses of all types, but the continued heightened market volatility has compounded the difficulties in getting it right.

Now more than ever it is important that, in advance of exporting to new territories, companies engage with market professionals who have a deep understanding both of the dynamics of the industry and of what FX risk management can deliver. Although there are challenges and risks associated with exporting internationally, through careful planning, strategic partnerships, and an on-going risk management strategy, these risks can be mitigated and new sources of revenue realised. Barclays is well positioned to help in this regard and we’d be happy to discuss your requirements.

This article is taken from EEF’s ‘Export Insights’ October 2012 publication

This article has been prepared by the investment banking division of Barclays Bank PLC (together with its affiliates, “Barclays”). The views and commentary (“the Views”) are short-term, general views of the Barclays Trading and/or Distribution desk from which it originates, not an opinion on whether any transaction or product described therein is suitable for any particular investor. Barclays does not provide and has not provided investment advice or any recommendation to you, you must determine on your own behalf or through independent professional advice, the merits, terms conditions and risks of any transaction or product described herein. This is not research. The Views are not objective or independent of the interests of Barclays Trading and/or Sales desks, who are active participants in the markets, investments or strategies referred to herein. The Views and data herein are for information only and not binding. Barclays are not committing to sell or seeking offers to buy any product or to enter into any transaction. Barclays will not be responsible for any third party data contained in the Views and accepts no liability whatsoever for any direct, indirect or consequential losses (in contract, tort or otherwise) arising from the use of or reliance on the information herein. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance as the value of any investment may fluctuate as a result of market change. The Views are not intended to predict actual results and no assurances are given with respect thereto.

Topics: Currency Exchange, Insurance & Risk, and Payments
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