As the U.S. economy continues to expand in the wake of the Great Recession, many companies are taking advantage of low interest rates and cheap credit and are increasing their borrowing levels. Corporate debt levels for non-financial U.S. companies reached, according to S&P Global, $7.1 trillion in 2019 — more than a third of GDP — the largest corporate debt load in history.
Much of the corporate debt is concentrated in just a few large companies. The top 10 non-financial U.S. companies with the greatest debt loads account for 13% of the national corporate debt, and the top 40 companies account for 26% of all long-term corporate debt in the country.
To determine the companies with the biggest corporate debt, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed the long-term debt of non-financial companies in the Fortune 500 with data from SEC filings for the latest fiscal year. Long-term debt refers to outstanding debt a company holds that is due in a period of 12 months or longer and includes obligations such as bonds and individual notes payable.
Of the 40 companies with the biggest corporate debt loads, seven are in the technology sector, four in utilities, four in energy, and four in telecommunications. Many of the tech companies on this list are also among the world’s 50 most innovative companies, and many of the industries represented by the most debt-laden companies also operate within America’s 25 thriving industries.
40. FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE)
> Long-term debt: $17.8 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 2.61
> Annual revenue: $11.3 billion
> Industry: Utilities
39. PG&E Corp. (NYSE: PCG)
> Long-term debt: $18.6 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 1.44
> Annual revenue: $16.8 billion
> Industry: Utilities
38. Merck (NYSE: MRK)
> Long-term debt: $19.8 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.74
> Annual revenue: $42.3 billion
> Industry: Pharmaceuticals
37. UPS (NYSE: UPS)
> Long-term debt: $19.9 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 6.56
> Annual revenue: $71.9 billion
> Industry: Mail, package, and freight delivery
36. Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO)
> Long-term debt: $20.3 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.47
> Annual revenue: $49.3 billion
> Industry: Technology