At a time when the IMF estimates that more than 20% of the world's companies would be unable to cover their interest payments if interest rates moved sharply higher, Comcast and AT&T are poised to become the most indebted companies in the world following media megadeals that leave the two companies with little room to maneuver if profits fail to materialize, according to the Wall Street Journal.
As WSJ points out, assuming both are finalized, the deals would leave the two companies with a combined $350 billion in bonds and loans, more than one-third of a trillion dollars in debt. The number is making some bond fund managers nervous, and some are saying they won't include Comcast or AT&T debt in their portfolios - unless they bear a suitably high yield.
"It’s a very big number," said Mike Collins, a bond fund manager at PGIM Fixed Income, which manages $329 billion of corporate debt investments. "It has fixed-income investors a little nervous and rightfully so."
But rather than looking at these deals as isolated examples, WSJ reminds us that companies only arrived at this level of corporate indebtedness following a decadelong surge in corporate borrowing, as companies - including these two telecoms giants - eagerly bought back their shares to appease investors, and financed these purchases with debt. Global corporate debt, excluding financial institutions, now stands at $11 trillion. Meanwhile, the median leverage for companies with an investment grade rating has increased by 30% since the financial crisis.
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