October 20, 2012

MB0053 [International Business Management] Set2 Q3

Q3. Mention the relevance of these terms in International business - Letter of credit, Bill of Lading and Factoring. 


Letter of credit: A standard, commercial letter of credit (LC) is a document issued mostly by a financial institution, used primarily in trade finance, which usually provides an irrevocable payment undertaking.

The letter of credit can also be source of payment for a transaction, meaning that redeeming the letter of credit will pay an exporter. Letters of credit are used primarily in international trade transactions of significant value, for deals between a supplier in one country and a customer in another. In such cases the International Chamber of Commerce Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits applies (UCP 600 being the latest version).[2] They are also used in the land development process to ensure that approved public facilities (streets, sidewalks, storm water ponds, etc.) will be built. 

The parties to a letter of credit are usually a beneficiary who is to receive the money, the issuing bank of whom the applicant is a client, and the advising bank of whom the beneficiary is a client. Almost all letters of credit are irrevocable, i.e., cannot be amended or canceled without prior agreement of the beneficiary, the issuing bank and the confirming bank, if any. In executing a transaction, letters of credit incorporate functions common to giros and Traveler's cheques. Typically, the documents a beneficiary has to present in order to receive payment include a commercial invoice, bill of lading, and documents proving the shipment was insured against loss or damage in transit.

Letters of credit (LC) deal in documents, not goods. The LC could be irrevocable or revocable. An irrevocable LC cannot be changed unless both the buyer and seller agree. Whereas in a revocable LC changes to the LC can be made without the consent of the beneficiary. A sight LC means that payment is made immediately to the beneficiary/seller/exporter upon presentation of the correct documents in the required time frame. A time or date LC will specify when payment will be made at a future date and upon presentation of the required documents.

Negotiation means the giving of value for draft(s) and/or document(s) by the bank authorized to negotiate, viz the nominated bank. Mere examination of the documents and forwarding the same to the letter of credit issuing bank for reimbursement, without giving of value / agreed to give, does not constitute a negotiation.

After a contract is concluded between buyer and seller, buyer's bank supplies a letter of credit to seller.

All the charges for issuance of Letter of Credit, negotiation of documents, reimbursements and other charges like courier are to the account of applicant or as per the terms and conditions of the Letter of credit. If the letter of credit is silent on charges, then they are to the account of the Applicant. The description of charges and who would be bearing them would be indicated in the field 71B in the Letter of Credit.

A bill of lading (BL - sometimes referred to as BOL or B/L) is a document issued by a carrier to a shipper, acknowledging that specified goods have been received on board as cargo for conveyance to a named place for delivery to the consignee who is usually identified. A through bill of lading involves the use of at least two different modes of transport from road, rail, air, and sea. The term derives from the verb "to lade" which means to load a cargo onto a ship or other form of transportation.

A bill of lading can be used as a traded object. The standard short form bill of lading is evidence of the contract of carriage of goods and it serves a number of purposes:
It is evidence that a valid contract of carriage, or a chartering contract, exists, and it may incorporate the full terms of the contract between the consignor and the carrier by reference (i.e. the short form simply refers to the main contract as an existing document, whereas the long form of a bill of lading (connaissement int├ęgral) issued by the carrier sets out all the terms of the contract of carriage); 
It is a receipt signed by the carrier confirming whether goods matching the contract description have been received in good condition (a bill will be described as clean if the goods have been received on board in apparent good condition and stowed ready for transport); and 
It is also a document of transfer, being freely transferable but not a negotiable instrument in the legal sense, i.e. it governs all the legal aspects of physical carriage, and, like a cheque or other negotiable instrument, it may be endorsed affecting ownership of the goods actually being carried. This matches everyday experience in that the contract a person might make with a commercial carrier like FedEx for mostly airway parcels, is separate from any contract for the sale of the goods to be carried; however, it binds the carrier to its terms, irrespectively of who the actual holder of the B/L, and owner of the goods, may be at a specific moment. 

The BL must contain the following information:
Name of the shipping company; 
Flag of nationality; 
Shipper's name; 
Order and notify party; 
Description of goods; 
Gross/net/tare weight; and 
Freight rate/measurements and weighment of goods/total freight 

While an air waybill (AWB) must have the name and address of the consignee, a BL may be consigned to the order of the shipper. Where the word order appears in the consignee box, the shipper may endorse it in blank or to a named transferee. A BL endorsed in blank is transferable by delivery. Once the goods arrive at the destination they will be released to the bearer or the endorsee of the original bill of lading. The carrier's duty is to deliver goods to the first person who presents any one of the original BL. The carrier need not require all originals to be submitted before delivery. It is therefore essential that the exporter retains control over the full set of the originals until payment is effected or a bill of exchange is accepted or some other assurance for payment has been made to him.

In general, the importer's name is not shown as consignee. The bill of lading has also provision for incorporating notify party. This is the person whom the shipping company will notify on arrival of the goods at destination. The BL also contains other details such as the name of the carrying vessel and its flag of nationality, the marks and numbers on the packages in which the goods are packed, a brief description of the goods, the number of packages, their weight and measurement, whether freight costs have been paid or whether payment of freight is due on arrival at the destination. The particulars of the container in which goods are stuffed are also mentioned in case of containerised cargo. The document is dated and signed by the carrier or its agent. The date of the BL is deemed to be the date of shipment. If the date on which the goods are loaded on board is different from the date of the bill of lading then the actual date of loading on board will be evidenced by a notation the BL. In certain cases a carrier may issue a separate on board certificate to the shipper.

Main types of bill

Straight bill of lading
In this importer/consignee/agent is named in the bill of lading, it is called straight bill of lading. It is a document, in which a seller agrees to use a certain transportation to ship a good to a certain location, where the bill assigned to a certain party. It details to the quality and quantity of goods.

Order bill of lading
This bill uses express words to make the bill negotiable, e.g. it states that delivery is to be made to the further order of the consignee using words such as "delivery to A Ltd. or to order or assigns". Consequently, it can be indorsed (legal spelling of endorse, maintained in all statute, including Bills of Exchange Act 1909 (CTH)) by A Ltd. or the right to take delivery can be transferred by physical delivery of the bill accompanied by adequate evidence of A Ltd.'s intention to transfer.

Bearer bill of lading
This bill states that delivery shall be made to whosoever holds the bill. Such bill may be created explicitly or it is an order bill that fails to nominate the consignee whether in its original form or through an endorsement in blank. A bearer bill can be negotiated by physical delivery.

Surrender bill of lading
Under a term import documentary credit the bank releases the documents on receipt from the negotiating bank but the importer does not pay the bank until the maturity of the draft under the relative credit. This direct liability is called Surrender Bill of Lading (SBL), i.e. when we hand over the bill of lading we surrender title to the goods and our power of sale over the goods.

A clean bill of lading states that the cargo has been loaded on board the ship in apparent good order and condition. Such a BL will not bear a clause or notation which expressively declares a defective condition of goods and/or the packaging. Thus, a BL that reflects the fact that the carrier received the goods in good condition. The opposite term is a soiled bill of lading, which reflects that the goods are received by the carrier in anything but good condition.

Factoring is a financial transaction whereby a business job sells its accounts receivable (i.e., invoices) to a third party (called a factor) at a discount in exchange for immediate money with which to finance continued business. Factoring differs from a bank loan in three main ways. First, the emphasis is on the value of the receivables (essentially a financial asset), not the firm’s credit worthiness. Secondly, factoring is not a loan – it is the purchase of a financial asset (the receivable). Finally, a bank loan involves two parties whereas factoring involves three.

It is different from forfaiting only in the sense that forfaiting is a transaction-based operation involving exporters in which the firm sells one of its transactions, while factoring is a Financial Transaction that involves the Sale of any portion of the firm's Receivables. 

Factoring is a word often misused synonymously with invoice discounting- factoring is the sale of receivables, whereas invoice discounting is borrowing where the receivable is used as collateral. 

The three parties directly involved are: the one who sells the receivable, the debtor, and the factor. The receivable is essentially a financial asset associated with the debtor's liability to pay money owed to the seller (usually for work performed or goods sold). The seller then sells one or more of its invoices (the receivables) at a discount to the third party, the specialized financial organization (aka the factor), to obtain cash. The sale of the receivables essentially transfers ownership of the receivables to the factor, indicating the factor obtains all of the rights and risks associated with the receivables. Accordingly, the factor obtains the right to receive the payments made by the debtor for the invoice amount and must bear the loss if the debtor does not pay the invoice amount. Usually, the account debtor is notified of the sale of the receivable, and the factor bills the debtor and makes all collections. Critical to the factoring transaction, the seller should never collect the payments made by the account debtor, otherwise the seller could potentially risk further advances from the factor.

There are three principal parts to the factoring transaction; 
a.) the advance, a percentage of the invoice face value that is paid to the seller upon submission,
b.) the reserve, the remainder of the total invoice amount held until the payment by the account debtor is made and 
c.) the fee, the cost associated with the transaction which is deducted from the reserve prior to it being paid back the seller. 

Sometimes the factor charges the seller a service charge, as well as interest based on how long the factor must wait to receive payments from the debtor.The factor also estimates the amount that may not be collected due to non-payment, and makes accommodation for this when determining the amount that will be given to the seller. The factor's overall profit is the difference between the price it paid for the invoice and the money received from the debtor, less the amount lost due to non-payment. 

In the United States, under the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles receivables are considered sold when the buyer has "no recourse," or when the financial transaction is substantially a transfer of all of the rights associated with the receivables and the seller's monetary liability under any "recourse" provision is well established at the time of the sale. Otherwise, the financial transaction is treated as a loan, with the receivables used as collateral.

Factoring is a method used by a firm to obtain cash when the available cash balance held by the firm is insufficient to meet current obligations and accommodate its other cash needs, such as new orders or contracts. The use of factoring to obtain the cash needed to accommodate the firm’s immediate Cash needs will allow the firm to maintain a smaller ongoing Cash Balance. By reducing the size of its cash balances, more money is made available for investment in the firm’s growth. A company sells its invoices at a discount to their face value when it calculates that it will be better off using the proceeds to bolster its own growth than it would be by effectively functioning as its "customer's bank." Accordingly, Factoring occurs when the rate of return on the proceeds invested in production exceed the costs associated with Factoring the Receivables. Therefore, the trade off between the return the firm earns on investment in production and the cost of utilizing a Factor is crucial in determining both the extent Factoring is used and the quantity of Cash the firm holds on hand.

Many businesses have Cash Flow that varies. A business might have a relatively large Cash Flow in one period, and might have a relatively small Cash Flow in another period. Because of this, firms find it necessary to both maintain a Cash Balance on hand, and to use such methods as Factoring, in order to enable them to cover their Short Term cash needs in those periods in which these needs exceed the Cash Flow. Each business must then decide how much it wants to depend on Factoring to cover short falls in Cash, and how large a Cash Balance it wants to maintain in order to ensure it has enough Cash on hand during periods of low Cash Flow.

Generally, the variability in the cash flow will determine the size of the Cash Balance a business will tend to hold as well as the extent it may have to depend on such financial mechanisms as Factoring. Cash flow variability is directly related to 2 factors:
1. The extent Cash Flow can change, 
2. The length of time Cash Flow can remain at a below average level. 

If cash flow can decrease drastically, the business will find it needs large amounts of cash from either existing Cash Balances or from a Factor to cover its obligations during this period of time. Likewise, the longer a relatively low cash flow can last, the more cash is needed from another source (Cash Balances or a Factor) to cover its obligations during this time. As indicated, the business must balance the opportunity cost of losing a return on the Cash that it could otherwise invest, against the costs associated with the use of Factoring.

The Cash Balance a business holds is essentially a Demand for Transactions Money. As stated, the size of the Cash Balance the firm decides to hold is directly related to its unwillingness to pay the costs necessary to use a Factor to finance its short term cash needs. The problem faced by the business in deciding the size of the Cash Balance it wants to maintain on hand is similar to the decision it faces when it decides how much physical inventory it should maintain. In this situation, the business must balance the cost of obtaining cash proceeds from a Factor against the opportunity cost of the losing the Rate of Return it earns on investment within its business. The solution to the problem is:

CB is the Cash Balance 
nCF is the average Negative Cash Flow in a given period 
i is the [Discount Rate] that cover the Factoring Costs 
r is the rate of return on the firm’s assets

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