Top 100 Asean firms at risk of default

S&P study draws attention to rising debt levels in blue-chip firms

SOUTH-EAST Asia's 100 largest publicly traded companies are becoming more vulnerable to default as their debt surges and profitability weakens. Debt-to-earnings ratios rose last year at the fastest pace since 2011, as average return on capital at the biggest firms by market value fell for the first time since 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In the past four years, their debt rose 89 per cent to the equivalent of US$500 billion.

Average economic growth in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam fell to just under 5 per cent last year from 8.5 per cent in 2010, forcing companies to rely more on borrowing than earnings to finance their investments. Outbound...

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