Multi-Asset Portfolio Dissertation

How The Role Of Property In A Multi-Asset Portfolio Has Been Affected By The Credit Crunch

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The existing literature argues property’s role in a multi-asset portfolio to be a means of risk reduction opposed to a method of returns. However, with the recent credit crunch having an adverse effect on the property market, this study will look into the affect it has had upon property’s role. To reach this finding, a combination of primary and secondary data will be used. The secondary data was obtained through a literature review and the primary data from interviews and a questionnaire. The findings were that the credit crunch has left the UK property in a position where it can offer investors opportunity to make capital gains and a secure income through rents. This has led to property’s role now being mainly focused on returns but still included as a means of risk reduction.

Multi-Asset Portfolio Dissertation
Multi-Asset Portfolio Dissertation

In a multi-asset portfolio an investor will likely include property to diversify and better their overall returns. However, with property values falling, it is likely investors were wishing to pull out of this asset class, cut their losses and venture elsewhere due to their risk adverse attitudes. A negative correlation when comparing property with stocks and bonds makes the later pair appears the way forward. Reason being; they should theoretically be outperforming the current property market rectifying diversification in a multi-asset portfolio. If investors make this decision and reduce the amount of real estate, levels of diversification will decrease, increasing specific risk. The chance of disposing their property is extremely slim however because of property’s liquidity being further extenuated by a market downturn. Property is evidently not offering the attributes investors’ want, yet they are unable to dispose of this unwanted asset. This puts investors in a very difficult situation of being left with a depreciating asset in their multi-asset portfolio. A possible solution to this would be identifying potential emerging markets, such as Latin America and India, which may offer the desired benefits currently unattainable in the UK. So with property still existing among UK fund managers’ portfolios the role it now offers must be determined. This dissertation will be based on three key assumptions namely:

  • Investors’ main reason for including property in a multi-asset portfolio is to reduce risk
  • Due to the poor performance of property in recent years, investors are reducing the property exposure in a portfolio and replacing it with more traditional methods such as bonds
  • Even with the recession being a global problem, certain investors feel there are still benefits from international property investment

The opening chapter of this dissertation has been produced to give readers an understanding of the overall study and what the upcoming chapters will be exploring. Chapter two will be a literature review analysing applicable company publications and academic literature, relating to the use of property within a multi-asset portfolio. It will clarify why various investors wish to include property, its characteristics, alternative assets to invest in and overseas investment. Each of these points will be tackled in their own independent section. The following chapter (three) will exhibit clearly the use of methodologies used throughout the dissertation to find out how the actions of investors has changed towards property during the credit crunch. Within the chapter it will also justify why these research methods were best suited for this field of research. The fourth chapter will bring together the results from the literature review, interviews and online questionnaire, clearly explaining what has been identified.

The final chapter of the dissertation shall be the conclusion. It will summarise the key findings answering the aims and objectives outlined at the start of the paper, identifying how the role of property within a multi-asset portfolio has been affected by the credit crunch. It will also make clear the limitations of the study and recommendations for similar studies in the future.

This research will help support many other studies that have been carried out over the years in regard to property’s role within a multi-asset portfolios. This paper will differ to previous studies, carried out by the like of Bryne and Lee, as it is primarily focusing on an economic downturn opposed to data over long periods with varying market conditions. There is a distinct lack of existing literature on this matter. By shedding light on this aspect, it will give an investor’s insight on how property is best used in a multi-asset portfolio during a struggling market.

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Economics Essay Monetary Union

Balance of Advantages of the UK Joining the EMU and/or Using the Euro as a Functional Currency

Introduction

The Economic and Monetary Union is an agreement between participating European nations to share a single currency, the Euro and a single economic policy with set conditions of fiscal responsibility. There are currently 27 member-states of varying degrees of integration with the EMU.

Currently there are 16 member states who adopted the Euro: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Cyprus, Malta and Slovakia. Further 3 countries including United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden did not join the EMU even though they had an option to do so. Main reason for the UK not to join the Euro was the strength of the Pound and the British economy against the countries in the Euro zone. Joining EMU was predicted to cause economic problems in the country as European Central Bank would seize full power over the monetary policy in the UK including for instance setting benchmark interest rates. Economists are therefore divided into two groups: pro and cons the EMU. Aim of this report is to show on the example of invented for the purpose of the report Multinational Corporation (Insomnia plc) the influence of UK joining the EMU and/or using Euro as a functional currency.

History of Insomnia PLC

Insomnia plc is a UK based Multinational Corporation with their headquarters in Aberdeen, Scotland. The company was founded in 1987 by Mira Stavika. Insomnia designs, produces and sells luxurious clothing, shoes and accessories for adults and kids. The company has internationalized through subsidiary undertakings in Italy, Spain, Germany and France as well as international trade with India, where the clothing is manufactured and exported to UK. The special packaging for cloths is produced in Slovakia. Since 2001, the company is listed on the London Stock Exchange and the largest German stock exchange in Frankfurt (FWB Frankfurter Wertpapierborse). The corporation owns approximately 60% of each subsidiary.

Scope of Business

After importing clothing to the UK, Insomnia stores it and resells majority part of it to their subsidiaries at the 20% mark-up. The remaining part is being sold in the UK. Subsidiaries and parent trade the clothing in the Insomnia branded shops. Apart from the payments for the import of clothing, foreign entity has to pay to its UK parent the management fee for the administrative and managerial services it provides. Out of the profit the foreign entities obtain, 70% is re-invested in their business; the remainder is paid to shareholders in form of dividends. Almost 40% of Company’s debt is denominated in Pound Sterling where the remaining part (60%) is in Euro. Revenue of the company comes in 70% from Euro and 30% from UK braches in Pound Sterling.

Parent company uses Pound Sterling as a functional and reporting currency, whereas all of the subsidiaries occupying in the Euro zone, use Euro as a functional and reporting currency.

Monetary Union
Monetary Union

Current Exposures in  a Monetary Union

Insomnia plc trades mainly in the foreign markets. This exposes the company into a series of uncertainties mainly regarding the exchange rate of the currencies. Exchange rates cannot be predicted with the ideal accuracy, but companies can at least forecast their exposure to exchange rates fluctuations which comes in three types.

Transaction Exposure

Transaction exposure is the degree to which the short–to–medium term cash flows denominated in foreign currencies are affected by the exchange rate fluctuations. This type of exposure has direct and large effect on the value of the company’s earnings.

Insomnia is highly affected by this type of exposure due to majority of its operations denominated in foreign currency. Buying clothing from the manufacturers in India and selling these to their foreign subsidiaries highly exposes company. Depending on the economic conditions, value of Indian Rupee and Euro can change rapidly within short period of time (Even as much as 10% within a year; Madura, 2007). Invoicing of clothing imported from India is denominated in Rupee, so if the value of this currency appreciates against the Pound, payables of UK company will increase and adverse. Similarly sales of the clothing to subsidiaries are invoiced in foreign currency, the Euro, which can affect cash flow in the adverse way to Rupees. Transaction exposure affects debt as well. Due to the Euro/Sterling exchange rate increase by 16.3% in 2009, debt of the company increased significantly last year as 60% of debt is denominated in Euro.

Economic Exposure

Extent to which present value of company’s future cash flows are affected by the exchange rate fluctuations is referred as economic exposure. ‘All types of anticipated future transactions that cause transaction exposure also cause economic exposure because these transactions represent cash flows that can be influenced by exchange rate fluctuations. Economic exposure includes transaction exposure and indirect effects on revenue and cost. ’ (Madura, 2007)

Insomnia is exposed as well to the economic exposure. If the Indian Rupee appreciates against the Pound as in previous example, the company may need to increase the price of clothing sold in the UK and price of goods sold to subsidiaries as will have to pay more for the supplies. In this case, customers might shift their purchases to the cheaper clothes’ retailers both in the UK and Euro zone which will decrease export of cloths to subsidiaries and result in the reduction of the future revenues of the corporation. If Pound appreciates, home sales are expected to decrease due to the foreign competition as well. Basically, increase in value of Pound will result in a decrease in both cash inflows and outflows, and adverse. (Madura, 2007)

Translation Exposure

How does this affect a wider monetary union? Subsidiaries have their own accounting records, but in reality parent fully controls the entities. Parent company has to show its own and subsidiaries’ accounts in a consolidated manner through consolidated financial statement. To do so, there is a need to translate financial statements of all subsidiaries of different currencies into reporting currency of the parent, which is Pound Sterling.

As exchange rates vary over time, the translation of the foreign entity’s accounts is exposed to exchange rate movements called translation exposure.

Insomnia plc has to translate the Euro denominated financial statements of its subsidiaries to the Pound Sterling, which is governed by the Financial Reporting Standards (FRS 23) and the International Accounting Standards (IAS 21). Assets and liabilities should be translated at the closing date; whereas income and expenses at the exchange rates at the transaction dates (average rate for the period is allowed, if reasonable).

Translation exposure does not affect the cash flow directly, but investors base their decisions on the consolidated financial statements. When in 2005 Insomnia announced that its consolidated earnings will be negatively affected by the translation exposure to Euro, investors responded very fast by selling their shares of the company, which led to decline in value of the stock by 5%.

Hedging

What is the impact of hedging on a wider monetary union? Exchange rate fluctuation exposures affect the cash flows of the entity in a direct or indirect way. The main aim of hedging is to minimize the effects and the uncertainty of the exchange rates fluctuations. Hedging may as well reduce agency costs, expected tax liability, and the cost of financial distress. Insomnia uses forward contracts to secure the exchange rate of their transactions and thus minimize the transaction exposure. For payables it negotiates the forward contract to buy foreign currency, for receivables – contract to sell foreign currency. The company, being risk averse, uses forward contracts to minimize the economic and translation exposure as well. To minimize the cost of hedging, company first calculates the net transactions exposure in each currency for each of the subsidiaries, then hedge against this balance. Additionally, company invoices the exports to its subsidiaries in the same currency in which they will pay management fees and dividends to a UK parent. It cannot be done for the transactions with the suppliers in India and Slovakia.

Effects of the UK Joining EMU on Insomnia Plc

Creating single market forming free flow of goods, capital, services and people within the European Union was the main objective of creating the EMU. To adopt Euro, countries need to fulfill “Convergence Criteria” set out by the Maastricht Treaty, but benefits outweigh the hard to accomplish objectives of price, exchange rate and fiscal stability as well as interest rate convergence and an impact on a wider monetary union.

Cost Savings on Cross-Border Transactions

Increase in trade within the European Union is one of the main objectives of the EMU. It is supposed to increase the consumption possibilities. According to Rose (2000) trade within domestic economy is far higher than international. Joining EMU and having single market with other EU countries will significantly increase the trade by making it domestic. It could be a great advantage for the Insomnia. It is thought to be achieved through cost savings on the cross-border transactions. Trading across Euro zone is much cheaper due to no need for exchanging money to foreign currency, hedging or keeping high reserves of foreign exchange. This will speed up the transactions and decrease its cost. Insomnia will benefit from this as company already trades with the subsidiaries from the Euro zone. Joining EMU will decrease costs of trading with them, whereas leaving problem of high costs of trade with India unsolved. Staying outside the EMU could be a big disadvantage in case of Pound appreciation. Shall this happen, export and sales in foreign countries will decrease as price of company’s goods will be higher. If joining EMU, Euro fluctuations would not have an effect on the exports to subsidiaries.

So far, strength of Sterling against Euro has already resulted in the reduced UK exports, which in turn forced foreign investors to pull out of the UK (Gillette, Siemens) and many more threat to pull out if UK will not adopt Euro. For the economy it is a disadvantage, but it is in favour of Insomnia plc, as it will reduce the competition. However, today’s situation is not positive for the company as “investors come here [to UK] because we have lower taxes and less regulation than the Euro-zone.” (Dominic Cummings, F/T; 12/06/01)

Stability of Prices

Stability influences monetary union, one of the advantages of joining EMU according to the European Commission is having more stable prices due to anti-inflationary regulations by European Central Bank. It is to be done by setting benchmark interest rates (according to the Fisher Effect) and exchange rate. It will affect Insomnia indirectly. In the event of the crisis in one of the EMU countries it is very possible that ECB will adjust interest rates in all other countries regardless the domestic conditions of single states. UK economy then may become unstable and collapse unfavourably affecting cash flows of the company. The risk of this happening is large due to high Euro volatility comparing to Dollar and Pound since it was introduced.

However, price stability can bring more advantages than the disadvantages to the Insomnia. Creditors being sure that prices will remain stable in the future are more willing to lend at lower interest rate which encourages domestic investments. Historically, UK interest rates have been higher than in the Euro-zone. In case of higher interest rates in the country, it may attract foreign investors in putting funds into Insomnia, but customers are more willing to save money rather than spend on clothing. Controlled inflation, stabilized prices and elimination of exchange rate fluctuations result in the ease of making long term investment decisions, planning and borrowing for Insomnia. (“Stability: Why is it important for you?”; ECB, 2009)

Price Transparency in a Monetary Union

Price transparency of a monetary union is driven by the price stability. When joining EMU, costs of the same goods across the whole Euro-zone will be much easier to compare. Prices of the Insomnia plc are relatively more expensive than the competitors, revealing it will lead customers to shift their purchases to different retailers. This might effect in the downwards pressure on prices and make it harder to keep different pricing policies on similar quality and use products. It is a big advantage for customers, but not for the Insomnia businesses. On the other hand, price transparency might help the company to find and work with the new, cheaper suppliers of clothing’s packaging. In addition, if Insomnia wants to set up a new subsidiary in the Euro-zone country, can easily compare costs of doing so among various locations. Stock prices of EMU countries are more comparable and prices are more stable as well, so it is easier and safer for the foreign investors to chose and invest in stock of Insomnia. Although, highly correlated markets decrease the diversification of the European investor.

Other Effects

Joining Euro will effect in long-term savings on the book-keeping. The Company has to hire people and keep tracks of costs, expenditures, margins etc. in various currencies. These costs will be reduced due to single currency used by the parent and subsidiaries. On the other hand, the disadvantage of one currency would be the cost of change over. This will require staff training, new tills software as well as labelling. Using Euro by UK might make company’s products more attractive to Euro zone customers due to easier purchases of goods online with no exchange rate uncertainty.

However, contrasting to the UK, in the Euro zone there is a VAT fee on children clothing, which will increase the price of such company’s items. It is a disadvantage for the clothing company. (Stephen Castle, the Independent, 15/07/03)

The level of hedging in Insomnia will be significantly decreased. Due to having Euro as a functional currency, company’s transaction exposure will be minimized drastically, due to having majority of transactions denominated in Euro. Insomnia will have to hedge only against the Indian Rupee. Economic exposure to exchange rate fluctuations will be decreased as well due to majority of the company’s operations based in the single, highly integrated market. Appreciation or depreciation of the Euro will not have an effect on the price of goods relatively to the competitors, trade or competition itself within the EMU. It will influence only trade with India and only Rupee will have to be hedged against. Translation exposure will be eliminated. As company needs to translate only the financial statements of its subsidiaries within the EMU, there is no need for this, therefore any need for hedging.

Using Euro as a Functional Currency of Insomnia Plc

“Functional currency is the currency of the primary economic environment in which the entity operates. The primary economic environment in which an entity operates is normally the one in which it primarily generates and expends cash.”(IAS 21) Insomnia considers the choice of the functional currency based on the factors stated by the IAS 21:

  1. The currency: That mainly influences sales prices for goods and services (this will often be the currency in which sales prices for its goods and services are denominated and settled); and of the country whose competitive forces and regulations mainly determine the sales prices of its goods and services.
  2. The currency: That mainly influences labour, material and other costs of providing goods or services (this will often be the currency in which such costs are denominated and settled).

According to the factors stated above, Insomnia should change its functional currency into Euro. The effect of this action will be similar to joining the EMU. Insomnia having Euro as a functional currency will benefit from the fixed exchange rate and reductions in cost of managing currency risk, speed of Euro transactions as well as price transparency. UK market will not be highly integrated with the Euro zone, as it would be in case of joining EMU. Insomnia would not be able to gain from the lower interest rates and stable prices. Obtaining cross-border funds will be easier when having Euro as functional currency, but due to prices being less stable, the cost of financing will be slightly higher than in the EMU. VAT on children clothing will not be introduced giving an advantage to Insomnia. Hedging will be decreased as well. Transaction exposure will be minimized, but by less than when joining EMU. There will be a need to hedge small amounts against receivables in Pounds and payables in Rupees as the majority of transactions are denominated in Euro. The company could easily reduce the exposure even more by invoicing in Euro, shifting this way the exposure down the supply chain. Economic exposure will be slightly decreased. In opinion of the report’s author, appreciation or depreciation of Euro throughout the EMU will not have an effect on the company or its competition. Although, UK will not be consistent with the single market, interest rates and inflation of the EMU zone, which may cause the differentiation in prices of the same goods (no price stability). Translation exposure will be shifted from translating from Euro to Pounds, to translation of Pounds to Euro. Exposure will be however decreased due to only 30% of revenue coming in Pounds.

On the other hand, it is argued (E. Christie; A. Marshall) that there is no connection in reduction in hedging with the decrease in risk. According to the article, the majority of UK MNCs using Euro as functional currency stated that there is no reduction in hedging. Author of the report argues with this opinion. It is probable that questioned companies had different levels of trade with the Euro zone states. Insomnia plc has its majority of operations focused within the EMU zone, therefore the advantages of reduced risk will benefit in lower incentives for hedging. Moreover, hedging policies could stay unchanged due to the different types of risk (non currency) faced by the companies. According to the article, using Euro did not encourage companies to expand internationally, which illustrates currency exchange risk as only one of the factors influencing investment decisions.

Conclusion

UK joining the EMU will bring Insomnia Plc lots of advantages. Stable prices, elimination of the exchange rate uncertainty leading to cost savings on the cross-border transactions, price transparency, possible growth, easier accessible borrowing, higher stock liquidity and decrease in hedging are just the major benefits to the company. However, there are factors which can influence the corporation in a negative way including not always favorable price transparency or additional costs of change over. Similarly, using the Euro as a functional currency involves its advantages and disadvantages, but the last have greater power than in the case of joining the EMU. It is decided that main exposures of the company involve the exchange risk; therefore reducing this uncertainty will be significantly beneficial to the Insomnia plc in the short and long term.

References

Anon, An Analysis on Whether UK Should Join the Euro

Artis, M., The call of a common currency, Europe without Currency Barriers, paper no. 3

Buckley, A., 2004. Multinational Finance. 5th ed. Edinburgh: Pearson Education ltd.

Castle, S., 2003. Britain fights EU plan for children’s clothing tax.

Christie, E., Marshall, A., 2001. The Impact of the Introduction of the Euro on Foreign Exchange Risk Management in UK Multinational Companies. European Financial Management, Vol. 7, No. 3.

Currie, D., 1997. The pros and cons of EMU

HM Treasury (1997), UK membership of the single currency: An assessment of the Five Economic Test

Rose, A.K., 1999. Does a Currency Union Boost International Trade?

International Accounting Standards. ,2009,IAS 21, The Effects of Changes in Foreign Exchange Rates

Madura, J., Fox, R., 2007. International Financial Management. London: Thomson Learning.

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