The Group maintains a range of borrowing facilities and debt programmes to fund its requirements, at short notice and at competitive rates. The balance of long-term debt, short-term debt and committed bank facilities is managed to provide security of funding, taking into account the cash generation cycle of the business and the uncertain size and timing of acquisition spend.
To accommodate the significant free cash flow generated by the Group and to capitalise on an inexpensive source of funding, a meaningful portion of the overall debt portfolio is typically kept short term as long as there exists acceptable liquidity in the commercial paper markets and sufficient capacity under committed credit lines.
The treasury policies ensure adequate liquidity by requiring that (a) no more than $1.5bn of term debt matures in any 12-month period, (b) the sum of term debt maturing over the ensuing 12 months plus short-term borrowings is less than the sum of available cash plus committed facilities and (c) minimum levels of borrowing with maturities over three and five years are maintained.
The treasury policies ensure debt efficiency by (a) targeting certain levels of short-term borrowings across a given year, (b) maintaining a weighted average maturity of the gross debt portfolio of approximately 5 years and (c) minimising surplus cash balances.
From time to time, based on cash flow and market conditions, the Group may redeem term debt early or repurchase outstanding debt in the open market. Debt is issued to meet the funding requirements of various jurisdictions in the currency that is needed. It is recognised that debt can act as a natural translation hedge of earnings and net assets in currencies other than the reporting currencies. For this reason, the majority of the Group’s net debt is denominated in US dollars and euros, reflecting the Group's largest geographical markets.