New rules ‘complicate corporate hedging strategies’

corporate hedging

Increases in banks’ costs of capital and new derivatives regulations are starting to have an impact on corporate treasury departments- and into the critical strategies companies use to hedge exposures, claims Greenwich Associates.

In its report, entitled New Capital Rules Complicate IRD Use, the US market intelligence and advisory services group finds that new bank rules and central clearing requirements for derivatives trades are gradually starting to affect the mechanics of interest rate derivatives (IRD) transactions used by many companies to hedge interest rate risk.

The report concludes that it is too early to determine if these changes will alter the economics of hedging to such a degree that corporate treasurers either look to new products to limit risk, or just reduce their hedging activity overall.

“Nevertheless, given the heavy use of IRDs by this segment, ensuring safe but economical access to hedging products remains paramount,” says Greenwich Associates consultant Thomas Jacques, the report author.

Despite “end-user” exemptions included in new regulations, growing numbers of companies are opting to pay credit charges on IRD transactions, as opposed to posting collateral or margins. Currently, about 70% of companies are paying credit charges to dealers, up from about 55% in 2014. Meanwhile, the share of companies posting collateral or margin is shrinking.

This matters, the report suggests, as stricter capital requirements and other new rules have increased capital costs for banks and made it more expensive for banks themselves to hedge underlying exposures. As a result, dealers are more accurately pricing the costs associated with IRD transactions, down to the collateral agreements.

“Corporations are increasingly paying flat fees to compensate banks for the strain put on their balance sheets,” says Jacques. “With markets for instruments eligible as collateral generally less liquid, there appears to be an increasing willingness among dealers to assume counterparty credit risk over the implicit liquidity risk related to accepting collateral.”

While intended to reduce counterparty risk and streamline the swaps market, mandated central clearing is also likely to impose additional costs and requirements, such as initial margin, reduced variation thresholds and daily valuations.

How this move to central clearing will impact corporate end users rests on several unknowns. Clearing many products with a single clearinghouse could produce huge netting benefits, ultimately reducing the margin required. Global exchange consolidation encourages this trend. However, in cases where little or no collateral was posted, even netted positions could result in more collateral needed as compared to the pre-clearing years.

“These regulations are likely to make cleared OTC transactions more expensive than uncleared, uncollateralised derivatives contracts,” says Jacques.

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