The Sovereign Ceiling and Emerging Market Corporate Bond Spreads
Durbin, Erik; Ng, David T.C.
We use the spreads of emerging market bonds traded in secondary markets to study investors’ perception of country risk. Specifically, we ask whether investors apply the “sovereign ceiling,” which says that no firm is more creditworthy than its government. To do this we compare the spreads of bonds issued by firms to those of bonds issued by the firms’ home governments. We find several cases where a firm’s bond trades at a lower spread than that of the firm’s government, indicating that investors do not always apply the sovereign ceiling. Bonds for which this is true tend to have substantial export earnings and/or a close relationship with either a foreign firm or with the home government. For countries with lower perceived default risk, we find that investors do not believe that whenever the government defaults, the firm will default.
WP 2002-13 June 2002
Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University