Currency swaps are used to manage exchange rate risk. In a currency swap, two counterparties exchange the interest and principal payments on loans in different currencies. The counterparties agree to a set exchange rate, a set maturity, and a set schedule to pay interest and principal. By fixing the exchange rate for the transaction, both counterparties hedge the risk of unfavorable exchange rate fluctuations.
For example, a British company may need to borrow US dollars. But the only rate it can get on a dollar loan is too high. At the same time, a US company needs to borrow pounds, but the only rate it can get on a loan in pounds is too high.
The British company, however, can borrow pounds at an attractive interest rate and the US company can borrow dollars at an attractive interest rate. So the two companies decide to enter into a currency swap agreement.
The US company borrows dollars cheaply and then lends them to the British company. Meanwhile, the British company borrows pounds cheaply and lends them to the US company. Through the swap agreement, both companies end up benefiting from the other company’s attractive home-currency borrowing rate. It is a win-win situation.
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