October 20, 2012

MB0053 [International Business Management] Set1 Q3

Q3. Cosmos Limited wants to enter international markets. Will country risk analysis help Cosmos Limited to take correct decisions? Substantiate your answer.


Country risk analysis is the evaluation of possible risks and rewards from business experiences in a country. It is used to survey countries where the firm is engaged in international business, and avoids countries with excessive risk. With globalisation, country risk analysis has become essential for the international creditors and investors.

Overview of Country Risk Analysis

Country Risk Analysis (CRA) identifies imbalances that increase the risks in a cross-border investment. CRA represents the potentially adverse impact of a country’s environment on the multinational corporation’s cash flows and is the probability of loss due to exposure to the political, economic, and social upheavals in a foreign country. All business dealings involve risks. An increasing number of companies involving in external trade indicate huge business opportunities and promising markets. Since the 1980s, the financial markets are being refined with the introduction of new products.

When business transactions occur across international borders, they bring additional risks compared to those in domestic transactions. These additional risks are called country risks which include risks arising from national differences in socio-political institutions, economic structures, policies, currencies, and geography. The CRA monitors the potential for these risks to decrease the expected return of a cross-border investment. For example, a multinational enterprise (MNE) that sets up a plant in a foreign country faces different risks compared to bank lending to a foreign government. The MNE must consider the risks from a broader spectrum of country characteristics. Some categories relevant to a plant investment contain a much higher degree of risk because the MNE remains exposed to risk for a longer period of time.

Analysts have categorised country risk into following groups:
• Economic risk – This type of risk is the important change in the economic structure that produces a change in the expected return of an investment. Risk arises from the negative changes in fundamental economic policy goals (fiscal, monetary, international, or wealth distribution or creation).

• Transfer risk – Transfer risk arises from a decision by a foreign government to restrict capital movements. It is analysed as a function of a country’s ability to earn foreign currency. Therefore, it implies that effort in earning foreign currency increases the possibility of capital controls. 

• Exchange risk – This risk occurs due to an unfavourable movement in the exchange rate. Exchange risk can be defined as a form of risk that arises from the change in price of one currency against another. Whenever investors or companies have assets or business operations across national borders, they face currency risk if their positions are not hedged.

• Location risk – This type of risk is also referred to as neighborhood risk. It includes effects caused by problems in a region or in countries with similar characteristics. Location risk includes effects caused by troubles in a region, in trading partner of a country, or in countries with similar perceived characteristics.

• Sovereign risk – This risk is based on a government’s inability to meet its loan obligations. Sovereign risk is closely linked to transfer risk in which a government may run out of foreign exchange due to adverse developments in its balance of payments. It also relates to political risk in which a government may decide not to honor its commitments for political reasons. 

• Political risk – This is the risk of loss that is caused due to change in the political structure or in the politics of country where the investment is made. For example, tax laws, expropriation of assets, tariffs, or restriction in repatriation of profits, war, corruption and bureaucracy also contribute to the element of political risk. 

Risk assessment requires analysis of many factors, including the decision-making process in the government, relationships of various groups in a country and the history of the country. Country risk is due to unpredicted events in a foreign country affecting the value of international assets, investment projects and their cash flows. The analysis of country risks distinguishes between the ability to pay and the willingness to pay. It is essential to analyse the sustainable amount of funds a country can borrow. Country risk is determined by the costs and benefits of a country’s repayment and default strategies. The ways of evaluating country risks by different firms and financial institutions differ from each other. The international trade growth and the financial programs development demand periodical improvement of risk methodology and analysis of country risks.

Purpose of Country Risk Analysis 

Risk arises because of uncertainty and uncertainty occurs due to the lack of reliable information. Country risk is composed of all the uncertainty that defines the risk of country exposure. The assessment of country risk is used to incorporate country risk in capital budgeting and modify the discount rate.

CRA regulates the estimated cash flows and explores the main techniques used to measure a country’s overall riskiness. It is mainly used by MNCs, in order to avoid countries with excessive risk. It can be used to monitor countries where the MNC is engaged in international business. Analysing the country risk helps in evaluating the risk for a planned project considered for a foreign country and assesses gain and loss possibility outcomes of cross-border investment or export strategy.

Country detailed risk refers to the unpredictability of returns on international business transactions in view of information associated with a particular country. The techniques used by the banks and other agencies for country risk analysis can be classified as qualitative or quantitative. Many agencies merge both qualitative and quantitative information into a single rating. A survey conducted by the US EXIM bank classified the various methods of country risk assessment used by the banks into four types. 

They are:

• Fully qualitative method – The fully qualitative method involves a detailed analysis of a country. It includes general discussion of a country’s economic, political, and social conditions and prediction. Fully qualitative method can be adapted to the unique strengths and problems of the country undergoing evaluation.

• Structured qualitative method – The structured method uses a uniform format with predetermined scope. In structured qualitative method, it is easier to make comparisons between countries as it follows a specific format across countries. This technique was the most popular among the banks during the late seventies.

• Checklist method – The checklist method involves scoring the country based on specific variables that can be either quantitative, in which the scoring does not need personal judgment of the country being scored or qualitative, in which the scoring needs subjective determinations. All items are scaled from the lowest to the highest score. The sum of scores is then used to determine the country risk.

• Delphi technique – The technique involves a set of independent opinions without group discussion. As applied to country risk analysis, the MNC can assess definite employees who have the capability to evaluate the risk characteristics of a particular country. The MNC gets responses from its evaluation and then may determine some opinions about the risk of the country. 

• Inspection visits – Involves travelling to a country and conducting meeting with government officials, business executives, and consumers. These meetings clarify any vague opinions the firm has about the country.

• Other quantitative methods – The quantitative models used in statistical studies of country risk analysis can be classified as discriminant analysis, principal component analysis, logit analysis and classification and regression tree method

Data sourcing

The basic data is important to analyse a country. The economic, financial and currency risk components are based on the variables (quantitative and qualitative variables). The variables must consider the particularities of each country and the needs of the model used. The standard variables are used to maintain the regular analysis comparable with similar works of other countries. Therefore, the first step is to make sure that the historical series of official data are reliable, consistent and comparable. The standard economic variables that are found mainly in the varied approach adopted by financial institutions and rating agencies, are associated with the country’s real ability to repay its commitments.

The balance of payments (summary account of economic transactions among a country and the others nations of the world, during a period) and its evolution through the years means a strong source of data. The exchange rate (currency risk) is another important variable considered, as it balances the transactions (balances the prices of goods, services, and capital) between residents and non-residents. The analysis must consider the historical behavior of the exchange rate and the policy which made clear whether the country follows a rational economics approach or it uses the exchange rate as a tool to maintain a forced macroeconomic equilibrium.

Apart from the macroeconomic variables which deal with the external sector of the economy, there are some other relevant variables such as the interest rate, level of investments, public debt and its service, internal savings, consumption, GDP or GNP, money supply, inflation rate and so on.

The analysis must be accomplished with qualitative variables, which consider social aspects as population, life expectancy, rate of birthday, rate of unemployment, level of literacy and so on. The social-political aspects are necessary for all kind of analysis as they describe the whole setting of the running economy.


The risk management demands a regular follow up regarding governmental policies, external and internal environment, outlook provided by rating agencies, and so on. Following are the tools recommended:
• Chain of value – Includes the main countries that sustain trade relationships with the nation, broken by sectors and products.
• Strength and weakness chart – Focus the key aspects that warn the country.
• Table of financial markets performance – Follow up the behavior of bonds and stocks already issued and to be issued.
• Table of macroeconomic variables – Provides alert signals when the behavior of any ratio presents a relevant change.

The content of country risk analysis mainly involves country history, corporate risk, dependency level, external environment, domestic financial system, ratios for economic risk evaluation and strength and weakness chart.

Country history

The historical brief helps to identify aspects that interfere in the future behavior of the country, reducing the ability to payback any external commitment. The main historical data provides a good understanding of the key factors which draw the behaviour of the society, the government, the private sector, the legal environment, the economical, political, and the relationships to neighbour nations and the world as a whole.

Corporate risk

Both country risk studies and business risk analysis enhances wealth from the available resources, in terms of capital, natural resources, technology and labour forces. This clarifies that those kind of analysis procures extensive knowledge from the business approach for companies, including financial theory.

Dependency level

The next step after the history in brief, is a clear definition about how the country is positioned in the world in terms of its wide relationships, economic block in which it belongs to, importance of international trade and so on. All these aspects are significant to identify the dependency level of the country. The financial dependency to meet the needs of a country is also a strong concern for the analyst. In this case, the maturity of debts (internal and external) and the available sources of financing also help to measure the freedom grades of the country.

External environment

The external trade is an important factor to the development of societies. Globalisation has brought international business to the center of the discussions and the external environment has become vital for all countries.

Thus, a complete vision on economic trends, the behavior of financial markets, the forecasts for conflicts among nations, the improvement of the economic blocks, the level of openness of the world economy, financial crisis and international liquidity is a framework over which the analysis must start.

Domestic financial system

The banking sector has implemented many actions to avoid losses, after the international crisis. Basel Committee has defined some strong measures to be followed by the financial houses and Central Banks are trying to monitor their jurisdictions. Apart from those procedures, recently Asia and Turkey crisis have shown that the inspection is not enough to keep the reliability of some domestic system. The international banks had developed many tools to deal with international crisis. When domestic banks do not have a consistent risk management policies and adequate provisions to theirs credits, the country risk happens to be the worst. Therefore, the analysis must consider the health of the domestic financial system, by evaluating information provided by the Central Banks and, from the principal banks of the country. Accessing Centrals Bank policies and supervising procedures also help to evaluate the health of the financial system.

Ratios for economic risk evaluation

Cross-border economic risk analysis evaluates the probable macroeconomic ratios among some variables. They can be separated into two groups such as domestic and external. The figures must be presented in historic series (at least five years) to provide information about its progress, which can be real values, percentages, or relations.

The mainly used ratios and variables in case of domestic economy are the following:

• Gross domestic product (GDP) –• GDP per capita –• GDP growth rate –• Unemployment rate –• Internal savings or GDP –• Investment or GDP –• Gross domestic fixed investment or variation of GDP – Gini Index –• Growth domestic fixed investment or gross domestic savings –.• Budget deficit or GDP - • Internal debt or GDP –

The monetary policy is essential as it deals with the price stability. An economy which presents less instability in its prices of goods and services, provides huge facilities to decision makers based on their predictions to expected returns of investments and a firm social, economical and political environment. All these aspects request a systematic approach over price indicators such as the following:
• Real interest rate –• Percentage increase in the money supply The mainly used ratios and variables in case of external economy are the following:
• External debt or GDP –• Short term debts and reserves –• Exchange currency rate –• External debt services and exports.

Strength and weakness chart
In order to explain the significant aspects provided by the analysis, the strength and weakness chart can be used to merge each strength and weakness with the related scenario. is a model of relationships among several variables (quantitative and qualitative) to show their interdependency and the complexity of analysis.

Rating agencies

The rating agencies use country credit risk ratings and provide a periodical and organised skill of data. It deals with a cross-border analysis. There are several agencies like Standard and Poors, Moodys, Economist Intelligence Unit, Euro money, Institutional Investor, Political Risk Services, Business Control Risks Information Services, Environmental Risk Intelligence, international banks in general and others institutions. The rating agencies provide information and analysis of economic sectors, companies, and operations assigning its related ratings.

The credit rating agencies issue credit ratings based in the European Union and are used by investors, borrowers, issuers, and public administrations to help them make investment and financial decisions. These ratings are used as a reference for calculating their capital requirements for calculating risks in their investment activity.

The Standard and Poors, and Moodys rating approach divide countries in categories and the four first levels of each one are considered as investment grades (better quality of the asset in risk terms). Based on their assessment of a bond issue, the agencies give their view in the form of letter grades, which are published for use by investors. For the typical investor, risk is judged not by an instinctively formulated probability distribution of possible returns but by the credit rating assigned to the bond by investment agencies. In their ratings, the agencies rank issues according to the probability of default. Both agencies have a Credit Watch list that makes aware the investors when the agency considers a change in rating for a particular borrower.

Investing agencies credit rating

Let us now study credit rating by various investing agencies.


The table represents Moodys credit rating.
Table: Moodys Credit Rating 
Best quality
High quality
Upper medium grade
Medium grade
Acquire speculative elements
Normally lack characteristics of a desirable investment
Poor standing: may be in default
Speculative in a high degree; often in a default
Lowest grade; extremely poor prospects

Standard and Poors

The given table represents Standard and Poors credit rating.
Table: Standard and Poors Credit Rating 
Highest rating - extreme capacity to pay interest or principal
Very strong capacity to pay
Strong capacity to pay
Adequate capacity to pay
Uncertainties that lead to inadequate capacity to pay
Greater vulnerability to default, but currently has capacity to pay
Vulnerable to default
For debt subordinated to that with CCC rating
For debt subordinated to that with CCC - rating or bankruptcy petition has been filed
In payment default

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