Landing a Cash Pool Solution at Eagle Ottawa
by Bob Carlo, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Eagle Ottawa, LLC
The American company Eagle Ottawa, LLC is the world’s largest supplier of premium leather exclusively for the automotive industry. Approximately five years ago, as automotive manufacturing increasingly moved to Eastern Europe, Eagle Ottawa recognised that the company needed to have a more competitive manufacturing presence that was closer to its customers’ manufacturing plants. Consequently, the company made the decision to establish an operation in Hungary and to relocate their operations from the UK. Initially, the Hungarian operation was of a relatively small scale; however, the facility has grown rapidly and has now become the hub of European production.
Building substantial operations in Hungary brought a variety of opportunities, as well as a range of challenges that had to be overcome. Although Hungary is a member of the European Union, it is not EUR-based, which therefore posed issues in cash, treasury and FX management. In addition to the Hungarian operation, Eagle Ottawa also maintains sales offices in the UK and Germany. This footprint created exposures in HUF, GBP and EUR. In addition, a change in raw material sourcing further complicated the situation by adding exposures to USD.
Today Hungary generates revenues in EUR and incurs manufacturing costs in HUF. The operation also needed to fund sales offices in EUR and GBP, as well as paying for raw materials in USD. The company approached K&H Bank with a view towards implementing a cash pool solution across all four currencies to support its business in Europe.
Appointing a solution partner
There were a variety of reasons for making the decision to work with K&H Bank. US companies would ordinarily choose one of its US banking partners; however, there is a lack of presence in Hungary amongst the US banks, creating a need to look for a local banking partner. K&H is the largest bank in Hungary, which provided the confidence in terms of counterparty risk, particularly as the bank is part of the KBC group. Eagle Ottawa has had a relationship with the bank since it first set up an operation in Hungary. Although this relationship started on a small scale it has grown considerably as the business has expanded. K&H understands the business well and has always proved responsive and reliable.
Cash pooling in practice
K&H Bank recognised the business challenges and by working with other parts of the KBC group, the bank set up a cash pooling structure that supported the requirements (figure 1). This comprises domestic zero-balancing cash pools in each currency, and a EUR cross-border pool, with header accounts in Denmark where our European financial holding company is located. Each currency header account is then included in an aggregate balance.