- Southwest has always hedged against oil price risk, using futures contracts. Is what they are doing make sense? Given that Southwest's core competence (see, I can speak like a corporate strategist) is running an airline (not forecasting fuel prices), that fuel prices are such a large portion of total costs, and Southwest has done this through high and low oil prices (and are thus not trying to time the oil market) , I think it makes sense.
- In the last two years, other airlines that had never hedged against oil price risk decided to start because oil prices had gone up so much. Is what they are doing make sense? I am much more suspicious of this activity. The very fact that they are hedging only after oil prices have run up, suggests to me that there is an element of market timing here. Not surprisiingly, firms that do this end up with the worst of both worlds. They hedge against oil prices after they have run up and stop doing it after oil prices have gone down.
- A publicly traded soccer team buys insurance against it's leading player getting injured. Does that make sense? I think this does, since investors in the firm would have a difficult time doing this on their own. The team also has information on the player's physical status that an investor would have no access to.
- As the Brazilian Real increased in value against the US dollar, Aracruz decided to make a bet of tens of millions on the continued strengthening of the Real. Good idea, bad idea? This is plain dumb. Aracruz is a paper and pulp company. As an investor in the company, the last thing I want them to try and do is time exchange rate movements (and I would have said the same thing even if they had made money)
- A trader at an investment bank decides to bet, with proprietary capital, that interest rates in the US will rise over the next year. Makes sense? I have always been skeptical about propreitary trading profits reported at investment banks, since I see little that they bring to the table as competitive advantages. They trade with each other, using the same information base and often the same traders (who move from bank to bank). I see no reason to believe that a trader at an investment bank (and the economists at the bank) have any special insight into the future direction of rates.
- Barrick Resources, a gold mining company, decides to sell futures contracts to lock in the price of golf for the next five years. What do you think? I invest in gold mining stocks because I am optimistic about gold prices going up. If Barrick goes out and hedges against gold price movements in the future, it is undercutting my rationale for investing.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Corporate Hedging: Answers to questions
A couple of posts ago, I presented six examples of risk hedging/ taking that I would like to take through my three bucket test - risk to pass through, risk to avoid/hedge and risk to exploit.