Expansion, diversification, growth: these things cost money. The primary tool employed by central banks to boost the economy and thwart a domino-like chain of defaults has been lowering interest rates – and companies have borrowed money for years to either stay afloat, refinance debt or buyback their shares. Their revenues have been obliterated, but their debt has only soared. Not just that, companies have issued billions in bonds and notes, a record number of which of the lowest rating, amassing even more debt that they may never be able to repay. While the side effects of too much easy money can be catastrophic, not all debt deserves a bad name.
Loans and bonds can be used sensibly to invest, hire and increase productivity. Furthermore, a higher amount of debt in absolute terms – while not desirable – does not translate automatically in an equally higher risk of defaulting on it. Small companies, in fact, tend to become cash-strapped more easily than their larger counterparts, with some sectors that can be more vulnerable than others. And while today the majority of the world’s biggest corporate borrowers – even in such uncertain times – can be trusted to repay their debt, it is also true that during the past economic recession many giants have fallen from grace in the blink of an eye.
Here are the top 20 countries with the most debt in the world.
Ford Motor Company
Anheuser-Busch and InBev
Royal Dutch Shell