Which of the following statements is true in respect of a non financial manufacturing firm?
1. Market risk is not relevant to the manufacturing firm as it does not take proprietary positions
2. The firm faces market risks as an externality which it must bear and has no control over
3. Market risks can make a comparative assessment of profitability over time difficult
4. Market risks for a manufacturing firm are not directionally biased and do not increase the overall risk of the firm as they net to zero over a long term time horizon
A non-financial firm such as a manufacturing company faces market risks similar to those faced by financial firms, except perhaps for not being exposed to risks from the equity markets. Non financial firms commonly face interest rate risks in respect of their debts, commodity price risks in respect of their inputs and products, and foreign currency risks in respect of their overseas operations. It is therefore not correct to say that the manufacturing firm does not face market risk because it does not take proprietary positions. While decisions on positions may not be actively taken, positions in foreign exchange (eg, through overseas debtors owing foreign currency, or liabilities in foreign currencies to overseas suppliers), commodities (through exposure to the need for raw material and inventory of finished goods) and interest rates (through debt financed, whether at fixed or floating rates) exist and create market risk much in the same way as they would for a proprietary position. Therefore statement I is incorrect.
While the firm faces market risks as an externality (as do financial firms for that matter, though often they seek such exposure to profit from their view on which way the externality will express itself), it is incorrect to say that these risks must be borne. They can be measured and hedged. Therefore statement II is incorrect.
The results of a manufacturing firm will include gains and losses arising from exposure to market risk, and will cloud the true profitability of the business. A firm with significant unhedged overseas sales may show vastly different results across time periods due to the FX gains and losses, making comparative assessment of profitability difficult. Therefore statement III is correct.
Market risks for a manufacturing firm may be directionally biased in terms of exposure, ie there may be a consistent 'long' position in a particular commodity that the firm produces, and a consistent 'short' position in the commodities consumed. In the same way, directional biases may exist in FX or interest rate exposures too. Regardless of the bias, the existence of market risk exposures increase the volatility of the income stream and make the firm more risky, even though the long term expected returns from such exposures is zero (ie, returns may be zero but standard deviation is not). Therefore statement IV is not correct as market risks form non financial firms do increase the overall risk of the firm.