Approaches to funding subsidiaries

The increase in use of equity funding, the complexity of transfer pricing discussions and using house banks for long term funding are some of the topics covered in this report which explores the different approaches that companies take to funding their subsidiaries and how their processes are evolving.

The report is based on a Treasury Peer Call which took place on 18th March 2021.

The call was expert chaired by Damian Glendinning, whose commentary appears below.

This report was produced by Monie Lindsey.

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This call came out of a series of discussions with treasurers: we spend a lot of time worrying about intercompany loans, external funding locally, etc. But a lot of these issues arise as a result of a series of key decisions, which are strategic and often historical: how do we structure our subsidiaries?

This is a complex decision. A non-exhaustive list of considerations includes:

  • Company policy: the more equity in a foreign entity, the bigger the perceived risk
  • Flexibility: loans can be quickly repatriated (at least, in theory): equity cannot
  • Duration and refinancing risk
  • Involvement of the in-house bank
  • Exchange controls
  • The need for internal loan agreements
  • Tax. This is very complex, and can become circular:
    • Local thin capitalisation and equity requirements
    • Arm’s length pricing for intercompany loans – the end of LIBOR complicates this
    • Profitability of the local business
    • Charging for credit risk – this is circular, as we control the credit quality
    • Country risk
    • Implicit guarantees
  • Business performance issues: equity does not result in a charge in the local books. This can disguise the true cost of funding working capital or capital expenditure
  • Difference between local accounting rules and those of the parent
  • Workload: the analysis is usually manual, which can be a problem if there are many subsidiaries

Most of these topics came up in the call. As always, there are a variety of approaches, with no one right (or wrong!) answer. But some shifts seem to be under way:

  • People seem to be considering equity more than in the past
  • Transfer pricing is becoming more of an issue, so Tax is having a bigger say
    • Specific problem with negative interest rates, especially for the euro
  • In-house banks initially just provided short term funding. Some are moving to do all funding

Bottom line: it can be worth taking some time to stand back to look at the overall structure, and ask “What would I do if I started from a clean piece of paper?” We never start from a clean piece of paper, but it is good to have a view of what the preferred structure would be, and work towards it.

Download the report here

Click here to get updates and find out more about CompleXCountries

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