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29.09.2013
As an investor, I am not sure how these numbers should affect my investment choices for the coming year. To estimate value for companies, though, I do have to wrestle with measuring risk globally, and variations in risk across countries. One critique of sovereign ratings is that they often lag developments in the real world, with changes in ratings occurring well after investors have priced in the changes. Both sovereign ratings and CDS spreads are measures of default risk and investors in search of a wider measure of country risk (which extends beyond default into political and legal risk) may want to take a look at the composite risk scores reported by the Political Risk Services (PRS) group. The red spots in the map are the most risky countries in the world, at least according to the PRS measure in January 2015.
After scaling up these default spreads to reflect the fact that equities collectively are riskier than bonds, I obtained country risk premiums for each country. At this stage, if you are primarily an investor in US companies, you may be heaving a sigh of relief that you don’t have to deal with these country risk measures, but your relief should be short lived.
It is true that some markets are riskier than others, but a knee jerk avoidance of the riskiest markets may not always be a good strategy. Starting with PE ratios, here is what I find, as I look across the globe at the start of 2015.
The countries with the lowest PE ratios are highlighted in red, though hovering over the spots will give you a quick measure of why they might not be bargains. Again, it should come as no surprise that the countries that trade at well below book value (colored red) also happen to be countries that are in crises. Aswath Damodaran is the Kerschner Family Chair Professor of Finance at the Stern School of Business at New York University.


He was a visiting lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1984 to 1986, where he received the Earl Cheit Outstanding Teaching Award in 1985.
While I like analyzing data, I am glad that I will not have to work with really big and sluggish excel spreadsheets until next year.
While the contrarian in me is telling me to avoid the winning markets and seek out the losing ones, I have learned through painful experiences to respect momentum enough not to be a blind contrarian. For the last two decades, I have been trying to measure country risk and have reported my estimates annually. The sovereign CDS market provides market-based estimates of sovereign default risk, though only 68 countries have sovereign CDS spreads (far fewer than the 142 countries that have sovereign ratings available on them). I started with the sovereign ratings (since they are available for more countries and then used the look up table below to estimate default spreads by country.
Again, the red spots on the map represent the countries with the highest equity risk premiums.
Since a company’s risk exposure comes from where it operates and not from where it is incorporated, most US companies (including small ones) operate in multiple countries and it is the weighted average of the equity risk premiums across countries that should be used in valuing these companies. He has co-edited a book on investment management with Peter Bernstein (Investment Management) and has a book on investment philosophies (Investment Philosophies). He has been at NYU since 1986, received the Stern School of Business Excellence in Teaching Award (awarded by the graduating class) in 1988, 1991, 1992, 1999, 2001, 2007, 2008 and 2009, and was the youngest winner of the University-wide Distinguished Teaching Award (in 1990).
They are neat, though, since you can hover over a country (with your mouse or clicker) and you should be able to see the data for that country.
As a consequence, I will stick with my base plan of valuing individual companies, no matter what country they are incorporated or operate in, and looking for under valued companies.


While I am ultimately interested in measuring exposure to equity risk, I start with measures of default, because they are more easily available and are easier to connect to expected returns. To complete the picture, I used the PRS scores for those frontier markets (such as Libya, Syria, Iran and Iraq) that are not rated by the rating agencies, found rated countries with similar scores and averaged out their equity risk premiums. To get a measure of how global markets are being priced right now, I estimated a range of pricing multiples including price earnings ratios.
His newest book on portfolio management is titled Investment Fables and was released in 2004. He was profiled in Business Week as one of the top twelve business school professors in the United States in 1994.
If you prefer your data in old-fashioned tables, they are available as links at the bottom of the post. While you can download the spreadsheet that contains my estimates of equity and country risk premiums by clicking here, the picture below captures the risk differences across the world.
His research interests lie in valuation, portfolio management and applied corporate finance. His latest book is on the relationship between risk and value, and takes a big picture view of how businesses should deal with risk, and was published in 2007. Note, as you look at these numbers, that some of the markets (especially in Africa) that I look at are very small with only a handful of listings and that the ratios computed for these markets have to be taken with a grain of salt.



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