Companies With the Biggest Corporate Debt

July 3, 2019 by Evan Comen

Source: Panama7 / Getty Images

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.

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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.

Source: Courtesy of FirstEnergy Corp. via Flickr

40. FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE)
> Long-term debt: $17.8 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 2.61
> Annual revenue: $11.3 billion
> Industry: Utilities

Source: BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

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

Source: Marko Georgiev / Getty Images

38. Merck (NYSE: MRK)
> Long-term debt: $19.8 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.74
> Annual revenue: $42.3 billion
> Industry: Pharmaceuticals

Source: Ron Wurzer / Getty Images

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

Source: Dan Krauss / Getty Images

36. Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO)
> Long-term debt: $20.3 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.47
> Annual revenue: $49.3 billion
> Industry: Technology

Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images

35. Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM)
> Long-term debt: $20.5 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.10
> Annual revenue: $290.2 billion
> Industry: Energy

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Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images

34. Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG)
> Long-term debt: $20.9 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.39
> Annual revenue: $66.8 billion
> Industry: Household products

Source: Patrick Smith / Getty Images

33. American Airlines Group (NASDAQ: AAL)
> Long-term debt: $21.2 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: -125.32
> Annual revenue: $44.5 billion
> Industry: Airlines

Source: Sean Gallup / Getty Images

32. Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN)
> Long-term debt: $23.5 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.54
> Annual revenue: $232.9 billion
> Industry: Online retail

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Source: Courtesy of Enterprise Products Partners

31. Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE: EPD)
> Long-term debt: $24.7 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 1.02
> Annual revenue: $36.5 billion
> Industry: Energy

Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images

30. Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT)
> Long-term debt: $25.0 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 1.78
> Annual revenue: $54.7 billion
> Industry: Construction

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Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

29. Intel (NASDAQ: INTC)
> Long-term debt: $25.1 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.34
> Annual revenue: $70.8 billion
> Industry: Technology

Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

28. Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO)
> Long-term debt: $25.4 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 1.33
> Annual revenue: $31.9 billion
> Industry: Beverages

Source: Courtesy of NextEra Energy

27. NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE)
> Long-term debt: $26.8 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.72
> Annual revenue: $16.7 billion
> Industry: Utilities

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Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images

26. Home Depot (NYSE: HD)
> Long-term debt: $26.8 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: -14.27
> Annual revenue: $108.2 billion
> Industry: Specialty retail

Source: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

25. PepsiCo (NASDAQ: PEP)
> Long-term debt: $28.3 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 1.94
> Annual revenue: $64.7 billion
> Industry: Beverages

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Source: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

24. Chevron (NYSE: CVX)
> Long-term debt: $28.7 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.18
> Annual revenue: $166.3 billion
> Industry: Energy

Source: Coolcaesar / Wikimedia Commons

23. Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN)
> Long-term debt: $29.5 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 2.36
> Annual revenue: $23.7 billion
> Industry: Pharmaceuticals

Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

22. McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD)
> Long-term debt: $31.1 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: -4.97
> Annual revenue: $21.0 billion
> Industry: Food services

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Source: Rusty Russell / Getty Images

21. HCA Healthcare (NYSE: HCA)
> Long-term debt: $32.0 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: -10.98
> Annual revenue: $46.7 billion
> Industry: Health care

Source: Mario Tama / Getty Images

20. Pfizer (NYSE: PFE)
> Long-term debt: $32.9 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.52
> Annual revenue: $53.6 billion
> Industry: Pharmaceuticals

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Source: Alan Staats / Getty Images

19. Kinder Morgan (NYSE: KMI)
> Long-term debt: $33.9 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.98
> Annual revenue: $14.1 billion
> Industry: Energy

Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images

18. Exelon (NYSE: EXC)
> Long-term debt: $34.1 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 1.11
> Annual revenue: $36.0 billion
> Industry: Utilities

Source: Courtesy of UnitedHealth Group

17. UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH)
> Long-term debt: $34.6 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.64
> Annual revenue: $226.2 billion
> Industry: Health care

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Source: Joern Pollex / Getty Images

16. IBM (NYSE: IBM)
> Long-term debt: $35.6 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 2.10
> Annual revenue: $79.6 billion
> Industry: Technology

Source: Mark Makela / Getty Images

15. DowDuPont (NYSE: DD)
> Long-term debt: $37.7 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.39
> Annual revenue: $86.0 billion
> Industry: Chemicals

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Source: Koichi Kamoshida / Getty Images

14. United Technologies (NYSE: UTX)
> Long-term debt: $41.2 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 1.01
> Annual revenue: $66.5 billion
> Industry: Aerospace & defense

Source: Chris Hondros / Getty Images

13. Dell Technologies (NYSE: DELL)
> Long-term debt: $49.2 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: -52.23
> Annual revenue: $90.6 billion
> Industry: Technology

Source: slobo / Getty Images

12. Walmart (NYSE: WMT)
> Long-term debt: $50.2 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.63
> Annual revenue: $514.4 billion
> Industry: Retail

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Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images

11. Oracle (NYSE: ORCL)
> Long-term debt: $51.7 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 2.31
> Annual revenue: $39.5 billion
> Industry: Technology

Source: Jonathunder / Wikimedia Commons

10. Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR)
> Long-term debt: $69.5 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 1.57
> Annual revenue: $43.6 billion
> Industry: Telecommunications

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Source: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

9. CVS Health (NYSE: CVS)
> Long-term debt: $71.4 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 1.22
> Annual revenue: $194.6 billion
> Industry: Health care

Source: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

8. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT)
> Long-term debt: $72.2 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.87
> Annual revenue: $110.4 billion
> Industry: Technology

Source: Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

7. General Motors (NYSE: GM)
> Long-term debt: $73.1 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 1.71
> Annual revenue: $147.0 billion
> Industry: Motor vehicles & parts

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Source: Sascha Steinbach / Getty Images

6. Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL)
> Long-term debt: $93.7 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.87
> Annual revenue: $265.6 billion
> Industry: Technology

Source: Mike Simons / Getty Images

5. General Electric (NYSE: GE)
> Long-term debt: $95.2 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 8.35
> Annual revenue: $121.6 billion
> Industry: Industrials

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Source: Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

4. Ford Motor (NYSE: F)
> Long-term debt: $100.7 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 2.80
> Annual revenue: $160.3 billion
> Industry: Motor vehicles & parts

Source: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

3. Verizon (NYSE: VZ)
> Long-term debt: $105.9 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 1.94
> Annual revenue: $130.9 billion
> Industry: Telecommunications

Source: jeepersmedia / Flickr

2. Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA)
> Long-term debt: $107.3 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 2.29
> Annual revenue: $94.5 billion
> Industry: Telecommunications

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Source: Toby Jorrin / Getty Images

1. AT&T (NYSE: T)
> Long-term debt: $166.3 billion
> Debt-to-equity ratio: 0.86
> Annual revenue: $170.8 billion
> Industry: Telecommunications

Detailed Findings

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.

Methodology

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.