Rising Dollar May Trim Repatriations

The euro now buys about 12 percent fewer dollars than it did when many companies first announced plans to take advantage of a one-year U.S. tax amn...
Craig SchneiderJuly 11, 2005

Plans to repatriate hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign earnings may be in jeopardy thanks to the rapidly strengthening U.S. dollar, according to the Financial Times.

For 12 consecutive quarters, a weakening dollar had inflated year-on-year comparisons for multinational companies, the FT reported. The dollar’s steep rise against the euro and other currencies since January, however, means that foreign profits will translate at roughly the same rate as last year’s second-quarter figures. Indeed, added the newspaper, the euro now buys about 12 percent fewer dollars than it did when many companies first announced their repatriation plans.

That currency volatility is threatening the success of a one-year tax amnesty granted by Congress to encourage U.S. multinationals to reinvest at home money earned abroad. Since the amnesty began in January, large companies have announced plans to repatriate $100 billion and earmarked another $150 billion for the program, according to the FT.

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Based on public disclosures, foreign-exchange flows, and client discussions Citigroup has reportedly estimated that barely $50 billion has been returned so far. Mark Graham, Citigroup’s repatriation expert, estimated that more than $100 billion remains to be converted, mostly from euros, but also yen, sterling, and Swiss francs, the FT reported. On the other hand, Pfizer — which has nearly $37 billion scheduled for the program — insisted that it has “almost no exposure to exchange rates on the repatriation” because most of its offshore cash was already held in dollars, according to the paper.

While there doesn’t appear to be a consensus on the numbers, “people have been frustrated that they missed the opportunity [to bring back money when the dollar was weaker],” Graham told the FT. “We are beginning to have a lot more hedging discussions, and in the last two or three weeks there has been a definite pick-up in awareness of this issue.”