14 Jul 2020

New Zealand corporations taking on less debt than overseas counterparts

4:41 pm on 14 July 2020

New Zealand businesses have avoided taking on high levels of debt in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Stack of New Zealand Dollar

Global corporate debt is estimated to jump 12.9 percent to $9.3 trillion as they try to shore up their finances, according to an asset management company. Photo: 123RF

A study of 900 businesses carried out by British global asset management company, Janus Henderson, estimates global corporate debt will jump by $US1 trillion or 12.9 percent to $9.3tn to shore up their finances against Covid-19.

US companies owe almost half of the world's corporate debt at $3.9tn and had seen the fastest increase in the last five years of any major economy with the exception of Switzerland.

Germany has the second largest portion of corporate debt at $762bn.

KPMG's head of banking and finance John Kensington said New Zealand businesses had not needed to take on as much debt because they were in strong position going into the lockdown.

"Overseas companies probably, per se, were not quite in as good shape as most New Zealand companies as the New Zealand economy had been performing better for a longer period of time.

Kensington said the country's debt was also low compared with other countries.

New Zealand businesses had also responded differently to the pandemic, he said.

"What you've seen from the majority of New Zealand companies is that they may have used up some cash resources and drawn down on additional loans without having to go to the market and raise new money."

Kensington said it still remained to be seen whether local firms would need to raise more debt as the true economic impact of the pandemic became clearer, but borrowing from investors had increased since Covid-19 arrived on New Zealand shores.

Statistics from the NZX indicate New Zealand businesses have raised more than twice as much wholesale debt this year compared to last year in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

For the month of June, the amount of corporate debt raised on the NZX was at $3.76 billion, compared with $1.47b for the same month a year earlier.

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