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Country Risk

Updated on April 16, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Edited bySusmita Pathak
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is Country Risk?

Country risk refers to the risk involved when investors consider investing in a foreign country, which has the probability of defaulting on its financial obligations as a result of economic slowdown or political unrest. Such a risk adversely impacts the functioning of the financial entities in the nation, thereby worsening the economic condition of that economy.

What Is Country Risk

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Even a small rumor or revelation can make a state less attractive to investors who want to park their hard-earned income in a place that is reliable and significantly less likely to default. Hence, taking care of such risks and possibilities is always recommended.

Country Risk Explained

Country risk indicates the risks associated with investing in a foreign economy, the economic condition of which is uncertain. The probability of risk is driven by several factors, including rumors, exchange-rate fluctuations, and technological issues among others, which ultimately affect the financial functioning of the nation adversely.

It might not be easy to assess the exact level of risks, but keeping a watch on the above factors definitely helps in measuring the risks to a certain extent. Whether it is a company or a government investing in a foreign economy, it assesses the country’s risk before making any final investment decision.

When an economy is affected by the abovementioned factors, it becomes likely for it to repay the debts that they owe to investors from other nations. This possibility of default makes investing riskier. When the risk is properly assessed, however, mitigation measures can be taken to deal with the situation.

Types

This can be categorized into the following types of country risks:

types of country risks

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#1 – Sovereign Risk

This refers to the probability of a central bank bringing in rules that might adversely impact the value of investor’s holdings.  It also includes the possibility of a foreign government defaulting on its sovereign debt.

#2 – Economic Risk

This refers to the chance of a country defaulting on its debt obligations in a broader sense. This is most often a factor of the economic health of a nation. Sovereign risk is a type of financial trouble.

#3 – Political Risk

This type of risk is mainly associated with the losses resulting due to the political situations of a country. Even a politician’s comment might not settle down well in the international community, thus contributing to the country risk.

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Examples

Let us consider the following examples to understand the country risk meaning even better:

Example #1

Let us assume Two Countries – the US and Algeria. Assuming both have some up-and-coming projects coming up for which they intend to issue bonds to raise finance. Which bonds are safe and which are more likely to default? Here comes the assessment part. An investor has to scrutinize various factors attributing to the country’s stability, like its political situation, inflation rates, economic health, tax systems, and many other factors.

Upon careful assessment, investors might find that the US is a far better investment option than Algeria owing to its solid political structure, demographics, tax system, technological advancement, and economic well-being. Hence, it can be said that Algeria has a much higher country risk than the US. The US is found to have the lowest country risk in the world.

Example #2

The Ukraine-Russia war has given rise to country risk, making the nations in trading relationships with both countries doubtful of their ability to tackle their financial obligations. Willis Tower Wattson Public Limited Company undertook a survey in April 2023 where it found out that approximately 92% of the participating companies faced financial challenges in 2022 due to the political risks that surrounded the two nations.

How To Measure?

Measuring and analyzing country risk isn’t a straightforward task. Investors can adopt several different ways of assessment. In most cases, a combination of other risk measures like debt-to-GDP ratio, beta coefficients, and country ratings might prove to be very useful. OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) has outlined two techniques to assess such risks::

#1 – Quantitative Analysis

Risk measures like beta coefficients and risk denoting ratios (e.g., debt-to-GDP ratio) can be classified under quantitative methods. The Morgan Stanley Capital Investment Index or the MSCI Index is the most commonly used benchmark for many stocks, thus representing the entire global market under one roof. The beta coefficient for the MSCI Index of a country can be used as a measure of country risk. A total of 23 countries are represented through this index.

#2 – Qualitative Analysis

Qualitative analysis leans more towards the subjective aspects of measurement. This will not provide investors with a risk number but can give an obvious idea about the risk environment of a country. Any sudden political upheaval or changes in the market statistics can render a country’s economy unstable, thus increasing its risk. Checking sovereign ratings and being updated with the latest changes helps investors to a great extent.

Advantages

When it comes to assessing country risk, there are lots of aspects to consider. Among these are the benefits that they offer the investors who trust the methods of measurement, follow them, and decide to invest or not in a venture.

Let us have a look at a list of advantages that learning about the country risk can offer:

  1. As indicated earlier, country risk assessment keeps investors warned and aware of what to expect from an investment in a particular country.
  2. Not only investors but such analysis also helps corporations in formulating strategies suited to a particular country’s environment. Such strategic planning helps them treat different countries differently.
  3. It includes both economic and political risks. Measurement provides a tentative idea of the financial health and the political environment of a country. This 2-pronged approach to risk assessment is very beneficial for governments who can devise their foreign policies accordingly.
  4. Many corporations and publications use their own country risk analysis tool. By using this tool, they can devise different methods to get insured against such risk.

Disadvantages

The country risk analysis is, of course, of great help to investors, but at the same time, assessing these risks has certain limitations that one must know of before depending completely on the measured results.

Listed below are a few demerits to have a glance at:

  1. This is dependent on hundreds of factors, making its assessment difficult and not so accurate. The error of measurement or error of omission is bound to happen. Even the most sophisticated algorithms fail to capture all the factors accurately.
  2. Qualitative assessment is primarily based on the availability and inclusion of information. However, the report found is never perfect. So, it doesn’t aptly capture everything.
  3. Country risk models so far have failed to properly contain the continually changing economic and political environment of countries. It is also a tedious process to determine the exact size and nature of exposure.

How To Mitigate?

With increasing globalization and expansion of trade between nations, it has made financial organizations, including banks and other investors, very uneasy. It is a known fact that up until now, not much has been done to properly manage and contain country risk exposure since the 2007-08 crisis unfolded, many were under oblivion.

Given the implications of such risks on the economy, it becomes vital to reduce or remove the likelihood of such risks arising. Though it is not always possible to remove the risks completely, there are ways to control and mitigate them. Let us check out some of the means using which the country risk management and mitigation could be achieved:

  1. Investors and financial corporations should devise a proper framework that includes segregation between different parts of country risk.
  2. It is also governed by a country’s resources and the primary occupation the economy is based on. Setting up teams to closely monitor these areas will also be beneficial in the assessment.
  3. Risk exposure should continually be monitored and updated to stay abreast.
  4. Using ratings to evaluate a country’s standing in the global markets.

This has been a guide to what is Country Risk, and it’s Definition. Here we discuss how to measure and analyze country risk and its types, advantages, and disadvantages. You can learn more about accounting from the following articles –

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