Lost in Translation

I try not to post about school too much… but I can’t help myself today.

Yesterday I had an exam in Multi-National Corporate Finance… yep, a whole class dedicated to making money by doing silly, ethically debatable little tricks internationally with money (in Finance, we call this “arbitrage”).

In any case, it was probably the most difficult exam I have taken in my whole life. It was mostly concerned with hedging against transaction, translation, and economic risk using forward contracts, options, money market hedges, interest rate swaps, and currency swaps. A brief example:

You are a U.S. based company who sold a piece of equipment to a company based in the U.K. for 100,000 pounds. The company in the U.K. has to pay in 365 days… you face the risk of the British currency (the pound) depreciating before they pay (if the exchange rate is $2/pound, they currently owe you $200,000… if the pound depreciates to $1.75/pound, then they are only paying you $175,000, a loss of $25,000). Since this is a possibility, you can mitigate the risk by entering a forward contract that locks you in to a price of $2/pound, or you can use the money market to hedge the risk. For example, if the interest rate in the U.S. is 8%, and the interest rate in the UK is 5%, you could borrow 95,238 British pounds from a U.K. bank (with interest, in one year you will owe the UK bank 100,000 pounds), exchange it into dollars at $2/pound to get $190,476, and then invest the $190,476 in the US at the US interest rate of 8% to get $205,714. When the UK company pays you, you would use the 100,000 pounds to repay the British bank. As you can see, this is not difficult, but can be confusing.

As with the first exam of the semester, I feel that I did very well on the quantitative problems, but I have no idea how I did on the multiple choice stuff.

Anyway, to get back to the point of the post, as I was sitting there trying to keep everything straight and figure out some difficult quantitative problems, the fire alarm went off… we went outside and waited until they gave the “all clear”. After about 5 more minutes, the alarm went off again… we went back outside for about 5 minutes, then they gave the all clear. Upon getting started again, the alarm went off… again. This time we relocated to another building and took the exam in the noisy college cafeteria (it was dinner time).

So there you have it… I took the most difficult exam of my life in a college cafeteria… proof that when it rains, it pours.


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