A total of 283 publicly traded US companies including many high-profile firms are at high risk of defaulting on their debt payments,Moodys Investors Service said Tuesday. Moodys newly created Bottom Rung includes companies known to be in distress including automakers General Motors and Chrysler,but also corporate icons such as Eastman Kodak and American Airlines parent AMR Corp.
The financial rating firm said the list represents the lowest-rated US non-financial speculative-grade companies,as a tool to help investors discern which companies are under the most stress at a time of tight credit markets and global economic weakness. The list does not include all firms with a low or speculative credit rating,but indicates those with a higher risk of default on their debt payments.
Moodys expects around 14.5 per cent of all speculative-grade firms to default by November,up from a default rate of 4.4 per cent at the end of 2008.
For the Bottom Rung firms,the estimated default rate over the next 12 months is more than 45 per cent,according to Moodys.
The number of companies in this low-rated tier has increased substantially,which coincides with Moodys forecasts of a sharply higher speculative-grade default rate this year, said David Keisman,senior vice president at Moodys.