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.