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Constant Currency Explained

July 6, 2024July 15th, 2024No Comments
constant-currency
Mariel Rhetta
Content Strategist at Rutland FX
Published on: (Updated ) - minute read

Constant currency is an approach used by companies to eliminate the effects of exchange rate fluctuations when comparing financial performance over different periods. This method allows for a more accurate comparison of financial results by isolating the impact of operational performance from currency movements.

In this article, we will look at the concept of constant currency, discuss its implementation by companies, and provide illustrative examples of its application. Specifically, we will examine how Dunelm in the UK and Tesla in the US represent their financial results using constant currency.

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Understanding Constant Currencies

You may have heard this terminology used when publicly traded companies discuss their finances: constant currency reporting. Constant currency reporting is a method used to neutralise the impact of exchange rate fluctuations on financial statements. This approach allows businesses to compare financial performance across different periods without the distortive effects of changing currency values. For example, a company might say, “We grew 11% in constant currency over the last period,” highlighting their operational performance without the influence of exchange rate changes.

Companies that do business in multiple currencies, particularly those with earnings overseas but a cost base in another specific currency, often use constant currency reporting. By doing so, they remove the uncontrollable variable of exchange rate fluctuations. This enables companies to provide a clearer picture of their operational performance, devoid of external currency market influences, making it easier for stakeholders to compare performance.

Translation of Financial Statements:
  • When a company operates internationally, it often has subsidiaries that report their financial results in local currencies. To consolidate these results into a single reporting currency (usually the parent company’s currency), the financial statements of the subsidiaries are translated.
  • For balance sheets, assets and liabilities are typically translated at the exchange rate prevailing at the balance sheet date.
  • For income statements, revenues and expenses are often translated at the average exchange rate over the reporting period.
Constant Currency Reporting:

To present constant currency results, companies recalculate prior period financial results using the current period’s exchange rates. This eliminates the impact of exchange rate changes and makes it easier to detect earnings growth or decline. For example, if a company earned revenue in euros in the previous year, it would retranslate that revenue using the current year’s exchange rate to show what the revenue would have been if the exchange rate had remained the same. This approach makes it easier for companies to showcase percentage changes in metrics without variables such as foreign exchange (FX) fluctuations.

Rates Used for Reporting

The exchange rate used by a corporation for constant currency varies based on the company’s methodology. Some companies use the average exchange rate for the reporting period, while others use the rate at the time the report is made. However, there are other approaches as well:

  • Spot Rate at Transaction Date: Some companies might use the spot rate at the date of each transaction for translating revenues and expenses. This method ensures that each transaction is recorded at the actual exchange rate at the time it occurred, providing a highly accurate reflection of historical transactions.
  • End-of-Period Rate: For balance sheet items, companies often use the exchange rate at the end of the reporting period. This method is useful for assets and liabilities as it reflects the value of these items at a specific point in time.
  • Monthly Average Rate: Instead of using a single average rate for the entire reporting period, some companies may opt for a monthly average rate. This approach smooths out fluctuations more effectively than a single period average rate and can provide a more granular view of financial performance.
  • Internal Guidelines and Policies: Many companies develop their own internal guidelines and policies for determining exchange rates for constant currency adjustments. These guidelines may include specific rules for different types of transactions or business units, ensuring consistency and transparency in financial reporting.

Example Methodologies

Using Average Exchange Rate: If a company reports quarterly, it might use the average exchange rate for the entire quarter to adjust prior period figures. For instance, if Q1 of the current year had an average exchange rate of 1 GBP = 1.27 USD, this rate would be applied to translate the previous year’s Q1 figures to constant currency.

Using End-of-Period Rate: For balance sheet items, the exchange rate at the end of the reporting period is often used. If the balance sheet date is December 31 and the exchange rate on that date is 1 GBP = 1.27 USD, this rate would be applied to translate all balance sheet items.

Dunelm’s Approach

Dunelm, a UK-based home furnishings retailer, provides a clear example of how their company uses constant currencies in their financial reporting. According to their latest annual report:

"Transactions in foreign currencies are recorded at the prevailing rate at the date of the transaction. Monetary assets and liabilities denominated in foreign currency are translated at the rates ruling at the Consolidated Statement of Financial Position date. Resulting exchange gains or losses are recognised in the Consolidated Income Statement for the period in financial income and expenses, except when deferred as qualifying cash flow hedges."

This approach ensures that Dunelm’s financial statements reflect the actual economic impact of currency fluctuations, allowing stakeholders to understand the underlying operational performance. However, this reporting style may result in a marginal increase in earnings volatility.

Tesla’s Approach

Tesla, an American electric vehicle and clean energy company, uses a different approach to constant currency reporting. According to their methodology:

"Constant currency impacts are calculated by comparing actuals against current results converted into USD using average exchange rates from the prior period."

By using this method, Tesla aims to provide a clearer picture of its financial performance by excluding the effects of currency movements. This allows investors and analysts to assess the company’s true operational growth and profitability, independent of external currency fluctuations.

Conclusion

Managing constant currency adjustments requires a thorough understanding of exchange rates and their impact on financial reporting. Different companies use various methodologies to achieve this, but the goal remains the same: to provide a clearer picture of operational performance devoid of currency market fluctuations. By following best practices and maintaining transparency, companies can ensure accurate and consistent financial reporting, which is crucial for making informed strategic decisions in a global marketplace.

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