Currency Volatility Hits Corporate Earnings

Bottom lines hit by currency market fluctuations.

Trade tensions, Brexit uncertainty and geopolitical events in the Middle East and elsewhere are driving a sharp increase in currency value losses at corporations and are having a major impact on earnings. In the first quarter of 2019, companies based in North America lost $1 million a day due to foreign exchange exposure, or a total of over $23 billion, according to the most recent Kyriba Currency Impact Report compiled by FiREapps, now a Kyriba company. This is the largest currency impact in more than three years.

Of the European companies that quantified their negative currency impacts, the average loss per company in the first quarter of 2019 was $276 million, a 52% increase from the fourth quarter of 2018. The average negative impact to North America–based companies in the first quarter of this year was $88 million.

“Impacts are likely underestimated, as most companies with currency headwinds generally do not report them,” the Kyriba report says. The euro topped the list as the currency most mentioned as having a negative impact for European companies during the first quarter of this year, swapping places with the Brazilian real, which had the biggest impact in the preceding two quarters. The Turkish lira and the South Korean won were the most volatile Group of 20 currencies in the first quarter.

Kyriba analyzed the first-quarter 2019 earnings calls of 1,200 publicly traded North American and European companies. These included large multinationals with at least 15% of their revenue coming from overseas.

The role of the corporate finance department has never been more vital, as multinationals try to navigate these volatile times, according to Kyriba. The pressure is being felt by chief financial officers, who are called upon to accelerate growth despite these challenges, the software-as-a-service company said in a statement. The ability to know where your cash is has never been more critical, it said.