Strategies for hedging financial risks
In the course of our business activities, financial risks may arise from changes in interest rates, exchange rates, raw materials prices, or share and fund prices. Management of financial and liquidity risks is the responsibility of the central Group Treasury department, which minimizes these risks using nonderivative and derivative financial instruments. The Board of Management is informed of the current risk situation at regular intervals.
We hedge interest rate risk – where appropriate in combination with currency risk – and risks arising from fluctuations in the value of financial instruments by means of interest rate swaps, cross-currency swaps and other interest rate contracts with matching amounts and maturities. This also applies to financing arrangements within the Volkswagen Group.
Foreign currency risk is reduced in particular through natural hedging, i.e. by flexibly adapting our production capacity at our locations around the world, establishing new production facilities in the most important currency regions and also procuring a large percentage of components locally. We hedge the residual foreign currency risk using hedging instruments. These include currency forwards, currency options and cross-currency swaps. We use these transactions to limit the currency risk associated with forecasted cash flows from operating activities and intragroup financing in currencies other than the respective functional currency. The currency forwards and currency options can have a term of up to six years. We use them to hedge our principal foreign currency risks associated with forecasted cash flows, mostly against the euro and primarily in Australian dollars, the Brazilian real, sterling, Chinese renminbi, Japanese yen, Canadian dollars, Mexican pesos, Polish zloty, Swedish kronor, Swiss francs, the South African rand, South Korean won, Czech koruna, Hungarian forint and US dollars.
Raw materials purchasing entails risks relating to the availability of raw materials and price trends. We limit these risks mainly by entering into forward transactions and swaps. We have used appropriate contracts to hedge some of our requirements for commodities such as aluminum, lead, coal, copper, platinum, palladium and rhodium over a period of up to seven years. Similar transactions have been entered into for the purpose of supplementing and improving allocations of CO2 emission certificates.
The notes to the consolidated financial statements explain our hedging policy, the hedging rules and the default and liquidity risks, and quantify the hedging transactions mentioned. Additionally, we disclose information on market risk within the meaning of IFRS 7.
Risks arising from financial instruments
Channeling excess liquidity into investments and entering into derivatives contracts gives rise to counterparty risk. Partial or complete failure by a counterparty to perform its obligation to pay interest and repay principal, for example, would have a negative impact on the Volkswagen Group’s earnings and liquidity. We counter this risk through our counterparty risk management, which we describe in more detail in the section entitled “Principles and Goals of Financial Management”. In addition to counterparty risk, the financial instruments held for hedging purposes hedge balance sheet risks, which we limit by applying hedge accounting.
By diversifying when we invest excess liquidity and by entering into financial instruments for hedging purposes, we ensure that the Volkswagen Group remains solvent at all times, even in the event of a default by individual counterparties.
Risks arising from trade receivables and from financial services are explained in more detail in the notes to the consolidated financial statements.
We ensure that the Company remains solvent at all times by holding sufficient liquidity reserves, through confirmed credit lines and through our tried-and-tested money market and capital market programs. We cover the capital requirements of the growing financial services business mainly by raising funds at matching maturities in the national and international financial markets as well as through customer deposits from the direct banking business. Financing conditions in the reporting period were almost unchanged compared with the previous year.
For this reason and thanks to the broadly diversified structure of our sources of funding, we were always able to raise sufficient liquidity in the various markets.
Credit lines from banks are only used within the Group to cover short-term working capital requirements. Projects are financed by, among other things, loans provided at favorable interest rates by development banks such as the European Investment Bank (EIB), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), or by national development banks such as Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) and Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES). This extensive range of options means that the liquidity risk to the Volkswagen Group is extremely low.
A downgrade of the Company’s rating could adversely affect the terms associated with the Volkswagen Group’s borrowings. Standard & Poor’s raised the Group’s existing rating by a notch in light of Volkswagen’s overall financial stability and flexibility, underpinned by the strong performance by its operating business. Moody’s Investors Service retained its existing rating. Information on the ratings of Volkswagen AG, Volkswagen Financial Services AG and Volkswagen Bank GmbH can be found in chapter Ratings of this report.
Residual value risk in the financial services business
In the financial services business, we agree to buy back selected vehicles at a residual value that is fixed at inception of the contract. Residual values are set at a realistic amount so that we are able to leverage market opportunities. We evaluate the underlying lease contracts at regular intervals and recognize any necessary provisions if we identify any potential risks.
Management of the residual value risk is based on a defined feedback loop ensuring the full assessment, monitoring, management and communication of risks. This process design ensures not only professional management of residual risks but also that we systematically improve and enhance our handling of residual value risks.
As part of our risk management, we use residual value forecasts to regularly assess the appropriateness of the provisions for risks and the potential for residual value risk. In the process, we compare the contractually agreed residual values with the fair values obtainable. These are determined utilizing data from external service providers and our own marketing data. We do not take account of the upside in residual market values when making provisions for risks.
More information on residual value risk and other risks in the financial services business, such as counterparty, market and liquidity risk, can be found in the 2014 Annual Report of Volkswagen Financial Services AG.