Edward Altman, who developed the Z-score method for predicting bankruptcies 50 years ago, says the next recession will be characterized by many more bankruptcies and defaults than in previous downturns, and the corporate failures will be larger than ever before.


More firms that look like they are going bankrupt don't. Over the last 50 years, it's clear that the average company in the world is more leveraged using more debt than ever before. There was no leveraged-loan or junk-bond markets 50 years ago. Now, these are big dynamic markets available to many firms. They take advantage of it. Interest rates in the last ten year have been low and firms have been overjoyed to leverage their balance sheet to try to earn returns greater than the cost of capital. And the cost of capital, with the lower costs of interest rates, has come down.

... There is a dramatic increase in leveraged loans, in covenant-lite issuance. The defaults will not take place as quickly as they normally would because there are no easy triggers from these covenants. But when they do take place, the ultimate recovery when the firm emerges from Chapter 11 will be lower because the covenant-lite debt kicked the can down the road.

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