Borrowing habits vary by sector. Capital-intensive industries like energy and utilities often need to borrow to fuel growth. Technology companies like Apple, on the other hand, may need to borrow in order to pay dividends to shareholders even as the bulk of their cash sits in tax havens overseas.
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.
Borrowing activity can influence stock price. Four companies with the biggest debt loads were also among the nine companies that turned their fortunes around in 2018 — companies that had some of the biggest upswings in stock price over the past year. One factor relevant to investors looking at debt-laden companies is the debt-to-equity ratio — the ratio of long-term debt to shareholder equity that measures a company’s ability to cover outstanding debts. Companies with the highest debt-to-equity ratios on this list include General Electric, UPS, and Ford Motor.
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 10-K filings. The debt-to-equity ratio and annual revenue for each company also came from SEC filings. All data is for the most recent fiscal year.