Big Warning from Professor Whose Formula Predicts Bankruptcies

This year’s run of “mega” bankruptcies has just begun, says NYU professor Edward Altman, creator of one of the best-known formulas for predicting corporate insolvencies. This according to a recent article in Bloomberg.

Altman, creator of the Z-score formula,  says that the number of U.S. companies that have filed for Chapter 11—numbering 30 since January—is likely to double by year end due to increased debt taken on during the pandemic. Bloomberg data shows that on a global basis, companies have sold a record $2.1 trillion in bonds this year with nearly half coming from U.S. issuers.

“While the stimulus-fueled rally in credit markets since March has helped borrowers stay afloat during the coronavirus crisis,” the article reports, “Altman and others have warned that many companies are just delaying an inevitable reckoning.” It adds that Fitch Ratings has predicted that worldwide corporate bond defaults this year could surpass those reached during the 2009 recession.

According to Altman, companies should be de-leveraging, not racking up more debt: “When there is an increase in insolvency risk,” he argues, “what you do not need is more debt. You need less debt.”