Descending the debt mountain

17 June 2022/No Comments
By Nick Dunbar
  • As inflation-busting recessions loom, cash-rich companies led by oil & gas are reducing debt
  • Debt tender offers can exploit falls in bond prices but tactical opportunities are slim
  • Financial services sector is still increasing borrowing to escape its utility image, which might be what they now need most.
  • Central banks are starting to panic about losing control of inflation, making it more likely that they will hike rates enough to trigger a recession in order to tame price rises. Companies that splurged on borrowing during the pandemic must reduce debt before the economic climate worsens.

    There are two ways of getting off a high mountain: very fast and very slowly. Cosmetics maker Revlon took the first route, filing for bankruptcy protection on 16 June. There will be plenty more like that. But what about the other approach?

    Changes in outstanding corporate bond notional by sector

    According to the Risky Finance corporate bond tool, the outstanding amount of bonds denominated in dollars, euro and sterling fell by $126 billion between December and May. New issuance has also plunged.

    While $126 billion is a small amount compared to the $2 trillion increase in corporate debt between the start of the pandemic and the end of 2021, small steps are the safe way to descend from that mountain. Which companies are leading the way?

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