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Corporate America's Ability to Manage its Massive Debt Burden

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Can Corporate America Manage its Mounting Debt Burden?

The total corporate debt in the United States has reached a staggering $13 trillion, raising concerns about a potential wave of defaults. As interest rates rise, businesses that have grown accustomed to cheap debt during a period of low interest rates must now adapt to a higher cost of financing. With over $3 trillion of corporate debt due for repayment in the next five years, companies will need to either repay their loans or refinance them at significantly higher costs. The tightening monetary policy has already led to a rise in default rates, with casualties including car dealership Carvana and infrastructure services group QualTek. Moody's predicts that the U.S. default rate could peak at 5.4% by January, but in a worse-case scenario, it could soar as high as 14%.

Challenges for Businesses and Investors

The increase in borrowing costs not only affects businesses but also dampens consumer spending power. This one-two punch of higher interest rates and reduced consumer spending could trigger a wave of debt defaults, leading to more company failures and job losses. Market participants are concerned about the impact on less creditworthy borrowers in the non-investment grade market, where coupons have more than doubled since late 2021. Leveraged loans, which have grown rapidly during the era of cheap money, are particularly vulnerable as borrowing costs rise. The ability of companies to service their debts is already being questioned, and a few high-profile casualties could have outsized consequences.

Adapting to Challenging Credit Conditions

Companies have responded to rising borrowing costs by extending the maturity profile of their debt, offering additional collateral for lower interest rates, or exploring alternative sources of borrowing, such as the private debt market. However, an extended period of subdued demand and elevated financing costs could still pose challenges. Businesses with heavily leveraged balance sheets may struggle to refinance their debt as it matures. The riskiest borrowers in the high-yield bond market are already paying significantly higher interest rates, and concerns are growing about their ability to meet their debt obligations. In conclusion, as corporate debt in the United States continues to mount, businesses must navigate the challenges of higher borrowing costs and potential defaults. Adapting to changing credit conditions, extending debt maturities, and exploring alternative financing options are crucial strategies for companies to manage their debt burden. Investors also need to closely monitor the credit metrics of companies and ask the hard questions to mitigate risks in their portfolios. The coming years will test the resilience and adaptability of Corporate America as it grapples with its vast debt pile.

Implications of Corporate America's Mounting Debt Burden for New Businesses

The escalating corporate debt in America, now at a staggering $13 trillion, is a ticking time bomb that could profoundly impact new businesses. With interest rates on the rise, businesses, particularly new ones, must grapple with the higher cost of financing. This scenario poses a significant challenge for startups that typically rely on borrowed funds for their initial operations. As over $3 trillion of corporate debt is due for repayment in the next five years, new businesses will face a stiffer competition for credit facilities.

The Double Whammy: Higher Interest Rates and Reduced Consumer Spending

The increase in borrowing costs is a double-edged sword for new businesses. On one hand, it raises the cost of financing their operations. On the other, it dampens consumer spending power, potentially shrinking the market for their products or services. This situation could trigger a domino effect of debt defaults, company failures, and job losses, creating a hostile environment for startups.

Survival Tactics in a Challenging Credit Environment

To survive in this challenging credit environment, new businesses must be proactive and innovative. Extending the maturity profile of their debt, offering additional collateral for lower interest rates, or exploring alternative sources of borrowing, such as the private debt market, could be viable strategies. However, these tactics may not be enough to shield new businesses from the potential fallout of a corporate debt crisis. The resilience and adaptability of new businesses will be put to the test as Corporate America grapples with its vast debt pile.
Story First Published at: https://financialpost.com/financial-times/can-corporate-america-cope-vast-debt-pile
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