Corporate default rates are at the highest level in years, according to a bankruptcy report released on April 14 by ratings agency Moody’s.
Widespread tech layoffs, rising interest rates, a war in Europe, and a looming recession all weighed on companies’ performances in the first quarter of 2023.
In the first quarter of the year, 33 companies rated by Moody’s were unable to pay their debts. That’s the highest number since the last quarter of 2020, when 47 companies defaulted on their debt, the agency said in the report.
Here’s the month by month breakdown from Moody’s:
- January: six companies
- February: 12 companies
- March: 15 companies
Each of those companies either filed for Chapter 11 protection, went under receivership, missed payments, or conducted a “distressed exchange” — an event wherein creditors accept haircuts out of fear that troubled debtors will not be able to fulfill their commitments.
That’s not all of the bad news.
The ratings giant expects junk bond defaults could rise to 4.9% by March 2024, thanks to higher interest rates and slower economic growth. That percentage stood at 2.9% at the end of March and the 4.1% as a long-term average.
S&P Global, another ratings agency, said in a February 16 report that default rates for American junk corporates alone could touch 4% by December 2023, up from 1.7% in December 2022 — meaning 73 junk-rated companies could default, per S&P.
In other words, things can get much worse.
And worrying signs are already beginning to show: First Republic Bank collapsed in early May, making it the third regional bank after Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank to be taken over by federal regulators following a banking crisis this year.
Read further for a chronological look at five major players that defaulted on their debts in March, the most recent month for which the data has been compiled. This list has been curated to highlight the biggest companies — by impact — that went broke and were unable to honor their debt obligations.