Many firms are interested in investing and seeking finance from foreign sources and exporting goods and services to foreign countries. Overseas involvement of firms is increasing, and this trend is expected to continue. This has been stimulated by a variety of forces. First is the change in the international monetary system from a fairly predictable system of exchange to a flexible and volatile system of exchange. Second is, emergence of new institutions and markets, particularly the Eurocurrency markets, and a greater need for international financial intermediation.
In 1971, the US dollar was unlinked from gold or allowed to “float”. This brought about a dramatic change in the international monetary system. The system of fixed exchange rates where devaluations and revaluations occurred only very rarely, gave way to a system of floating exchange rates.
The distinguishing characteristics of international business finance are multiple currencies, differential taxation and barriers to financial flows. Of these, the multiple currency factor and the attendant issue of exchange rates has received considerable attention, particularly in recent years. An exchange rate represents the relationship between two currencies.
The procedure for evaluating a foreign investment in international business finance consists of identification of cash flows, choice of an appropriate discount rate and determination of net present value. Foreign investments generally involve higher risk, which arises from factor like changes in currency value, discriminatory treatment of a foreign company and threat of expropriation. Risk stemming from fluctuations in exchange rate looms constantly on the horizon of foreign investment. In addition, a foreign investment is subject to discriminatory treatment and selective control in various forms motivated mainly by political considerations. Finally, the threat of expropriation without adequate compensation may exist, particularly in countries where radical nationalistic sentiments are strong. In view of the higher risk associated with foreign investment, a firm contemplating foreign investment would naturally expect a higher rate of return.