A:

For multinational companies, political risk refers to the risk that a host country will make political decisions that will prove to have adverse effects on the multinational's profits and/or goals. Adverse political actions can range from very detrimental, such as widespread destruction due to revolution, to those of a more financial nature, such as the creation of laws that prevent the movement of capital.

In general, there are two types of political risk, macro risk and micro risk. Macro risk refers to adverse actions that will affect all foreign firms, such as expropriation or insurrection, whereas micro risk refers to adverse actions that will only affect a certain industrial sector or business, such as corruption and prejudicial actions against companies from foreign countries. All in all, regardless of the type of political risk that a multinational corporation faces, companies usually will end up losing a lot of money if they are unprepared for these adverse situations. For example, after Fidel Castro's government took control of Cuba in 1959, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of American-owned assets and companies were expropriated. Unfortunately, most, if not all, of these American companies had no recourse for getting any of that money back.

So how can multinational companies minimize political risk? There are a couple of measures that can be taken even before an investment is made. The simplest solution is to conduct a little research on the riskiness of a country, either by paying for reports from consultants that specialize in making these assessments or doing a little bit of research yourself, using the many free sources available on the internet (such as the U.S. Department of State's background notes). Then you will have the informed option to not set up operations in countries that are considered to be political risk hot spots.

While that strategy can be effective for some companies, sometimes the prospect of entering a riskier country is so lucrative that it is worth taking a calculated risk. In those cases, companies can sometimes negotiate terms of compensation with the host country, so that there would be a legal basis for recourse in the event that something happens to disrupt the company's operations. However, the problem with this solution is that the legal system in the host country may not be as developed and foreigners rarely win cases against a host country. Even worse, a revolution could spawn a new government that does not honor the actions of the previous government.

If you do go ahead and enter a country that is considered at risk, one of the better solutions is to purchase political risk insurance. Multinational companies can go to one of the many organizations that specialize in selling political risk insurance and purchase a policy that would compensate them if an adverse event occurred. Because premium rates depend on the country, the industry, the number of risks insured and other factors, the cost of doing business in one country may vary considerably compared to another.

However, be warned: buying political risk insurance does not guarantee that a company will receive compensation immediately after an adverse event. Certain conditions, such as trying other channels for recourse and the degree to which the business was affected, must be met. Ultimately, a company may have to wait months before any compensation is received.

To learn more, see Investing Beyond Your Borders and Broadening The Borders Of Your Portfolio

RELATED FAQS
  1. Who are Qualcomm's (QCOM) main competitors?

    Qualcomm Incorporated (QCOM) is a multinational American company that sells telecommunications products. It competes in the ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How has Google's operations strayed from its original mission statement?

    Google's (GOOG) mission statement has been the same since its inception in 1998: "Organize the world's information and make ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What kinds of costs are included in Free on Board (FOB) shipping?

    Free on board (FOB) shipping is a trade term published by the International Chamber of Commerce or ICC, that indicates which ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What are the differences between B-shares and H-shares traded on Chinese stock exchanges?

    Equity listings in China generally fall under three primary categories: A shares, B shares and H shares. B shares represent ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are the differences between H-shares and A-shares on Chinese and Hong Kong stock ...

    Publicly trade companies in China generally fall under three share categories: A shares, B shares and H-shares. A-shares ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What are the differences between product bundling and product lines?

    The difference between product bundling and product lines is a product line is a group of related products manufactured by ... Read Full Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Top 3 Switzerland ETFs

    Explore detailed analysis and information of the top three Swiss exchange-traded funds that offer exposure to the Swiss equities market.
  2. Entrepreneurship

    World's Top 10 Serial Entrepreneurs

    There are entrepreneurs, and then there are serial entrepreneurs. Investopedia takes a look at who they are and how they keep making it big.
  3. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: SPDR Dow Jones International RelEst

    Learn how the SPDR Dow Jones International Real Estate exchange-traded fund (ETF) is managed and for whom the ETF is most appropriate.
  4. Investing Basics

    Explaining Trade Liberalization

    Trade liberalization is the process of removing or reducing obstacles that impede the exchange of goods and services between nations.
  5. Economics

    Explaining Strategic Alliances

    A strategic alliance is a business relationship between two or more entities that share recourses for a common goal.
  6. Economics

    Understanding Organic Growth

    Organic growth is the increase in a company’s revenue and value due to internal operations.
  7. Economics

    Explaining the Balanced Scorecard

    A balanced scorecard is a metric that measures a business’ performance.
  8. Investing

    The Rise of Corporate Venture Capital

    After the success of Google Ventures, corporate venture capital is an increasingly popular diversification and hedging tool for many large corporations.
  9. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: iShares MSCI South Africa

    Learn more about the iShares MSCI South Africa fund, which is an NYSE-listed exchange-traded fund offered and managed by BlackRock.
  10. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: iShares MSCI EAFE Small-Cap

    Read an in-depth analysis of the iShares MSCI EAFE Small-Cap Fund, a well-managed exchange-traded fund that tracks small-cap international stocks.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Trade Credit

    An agreement where a customer can purchase goods on account (without ...
  2. Brazil, Russia, India And China - BRIC

    An acronym for the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China ...
  3. Optimal Currency Area

    The geographic area in which a single currency would create the ...
  4. European Sovereign Debt Crisis

    A period of time in which several European countries faced the ...
  5. Cost Test

    A standard test applied to a process to determine if the net ...
  6. Path To Profitability (P2P)

    A clearly defined route to profitability as described in a business ...

You May Also Like

Trading Center
×

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!