Risks involved in International transactions
When an organization decides to engage in international financing activities, they also take on additional risk as well as opportunities. The main risks that are associated with businesses engaging in international finance include foreign exchange risk and political risk. These risks may sometimes make it difficult to maintain constant and reliable revenue.
Investing internationally has often been the advice given to investors looking to increase the diversification and total return of their portfolio. The diversification benefits are achieved through the addition of low correlation assets of international markets that serve to reduce the overall risk of the portfolio. However, although the benefits of investing internationally are widely accepted theories, many investors are still hesitant to invest abroad.
Risks involving International transactions include:
- Delay in payment or non-payment
- Loss or damage in transit
- Loss due to exchange rate variations
- Increased transportation costs
Foreign Exchange risk
Foreign exchange risk occurs when the value of investment fluctuates due to changes in a currency’s exchange rate. When a domestic currency appreciates against a foreign currency, profit or returns earned in the foreign country will decrease after being exchanged back to the domestic currency. Due to the somewhat volatile nature of the exchange rate, it can be quite difficult to protect against this kind of risk, which can harm sales and revenues.
Political risk transpires when a country’s government unexpectedly changes its policies, which now negatively affect the foreign company. These policy changes can include such things as trade barriers, which serve to limit or prevent international trade. Some governments will request additional funds or tariffs in exchange for the right to export items into their country. Tariffs and quotas are used to protect domestic producers from foreign competition. This also can have a huge effect on the profits of an organization because it either cuts revenues from the result of a tax on exports or restricts the amount of revenues that can be earned. Although the amount of trade barriers have diminished due to free-trade agreements and other similar measures, the everyday differences in the laws of foreign countries can influence the profits and overall success of a company doing business transactions abroad.
Likely the biggest barriers to investing in international markets are the transaction costs. Although we live in a relatively globalized and connected world, transactions costs can still vary greatly depending on which foreign market you are investing in. Brokerage commissions are almost always higher in international markets compared to domestic rates. In addition, on top of the higher brokerage commissions, there are frequently additional charges that are piled on top that are specific to the local market, which can include stamp duties, levies, taxes, clearing fees and exchange fees.
The next area of concern for retail investors is in the area of currency volatility. When investing directly in a foreign market (and not through ADRs), you have to exchange your domestic currency (USD for U.S. investors) into a foreign currency at the current exchange rate in order to purchase the foreign stock. If you then hold the foreign stock for a year and sell it, you will have to convert the foreign currency back into USD at the prevailing exchange rate one year later. It is the uncertainty of what the future exchange rate will be that scares many investors. Also, since a significant part of your foreign stock return will be affected by the currency return, investors investing internationally should eliminate this risk.
The solution to mitigating this currency risk, as any financial professional will likely tell you, is to simply hedge your currency exposure. However, not many retail investors know how to hedge currency risk and which products to use.
Another risk inherent in foreign markets, especially in emerging markets, is liquidity risk. Liquidity risk is the risk of not being able to sell your stock quickly enough once a sell order is entered. In the previous discussion on currency risk we described how currency risks can be eliminated, however there is typically no way for the average investor to protect themselves from liquidity risk. Therefore, investors should pay particular attention to foreign investments that are, or can become, illiquid by the time they want to close their position.
Insurance coverage that protects businesses from losses due to events that may occur during the normal course of business. There are many types of insurance for businesses including coverage for property damage, legal liability and employee-related risks. Companies evaluate their insurance needs based on potential risks, which can vary depending on the type of environment in which the company operates.