The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
Assessing default risks for Chinese firms is hard. Standard measures of risk using market indicators may be unreliable because of implicit guarantees, the large role played by less-informed investors, and other market imperfections. We test this assertion by estimating stand-alone 1-year default probabilities for non-financial firms in China using an equity-based structural model and debt costs. We find evidence that the equity measure of default risk is sensitive to a firm's balance sheet health, profitability, and ownership; specifically, default probabilities are higher for weaker, less profitable, and state-owned firms. In contrast, measures based on the cost of debt seem largely detached from fundamentals and instead determined by implicit guarantees. We conclude that for individual firms, equity-based measures, while far from perfect, provide a better measure of stand-alone default risks than borrowing costs.