Corporate debt around the world has risen to an eye-watering $12 trillion - and that's before the coronavirus pandemic could be blamed for battering anyone's balance sheets.
According to the annual Corporate Debt Index report, launched today by global active asset management group Janus Henderson, debt has been rising significantly faster than profits worldwide for sometime.
Last year alone, the global collective net of company debts jumped by $907 billion, the fastest increase in five years. The Janus Henderson group expect that figure to jump another trillion dollars by the end of 2020.
The largest 900 non-financial companies in the world are included in Janus Henderson's Corporate Debt Index, many of them owing almost two fifths (37 per cent) more than they did in 2014, with debt growth steadily outstripping growth in profits.
Money was primarily borrowed to fund takeovers, share buybacks and dividends, as well as to invest.
The upward trend in debt then spiked in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic struck, with some companies in the index showing half their debts in the form of listed bonds.
An additional $557 billion in bonds was issued between January and May and borrowing from banks also increased sharply, though figures are not yet available.
The most indebted company in the world is Volkswagen - a staggering $278 billion net borrowing almost as high as the sovereign debt of South Africa or Hungary, though this is inflated by its large car finance business.
Company debts have grown fastest in the US and Switzerland. German debts are the second highest in the world after the US, thanks to the car manufacturers and their financing businesses.
While Australia's most indebted companies are Telstra and Transurban.
The report goes on to specify the sectors seeing the fastest debt growth are aerospace, pharmaceutical and media sectors.
On the flip side, a quarter of the companies in Janus Henderson's index have no debt at all, and some have vast cash reserves. The biggest being $151 billion and belongs to Google's owner Alphabet.
While debt continues to show its global weight, Australia is making its own path into the black, with lower levels of debt compared to the rest of the developed world.
The net borrowings in Australia have fallen over the years from $124 billion in 2014 to $87 billion in 2019, with industrials (31 per cent) and basic materials (25 per cent) and communications and media (19 per cent) leading the pack.
But while Australia might be seeing a decrease in corporate debt, Jay Sivapalan, Janus Henderson's Head of Australian Fixed Interest, warns the income shock from this pandemic needs to be understood.
"There's good debt and bad debt. Investors need to be careful in selecting the right debt for investing," Mr Sivapalan said.
Debt isn't necessarily a bad thing - in moderation, says the team Janus Henderson. 'Good debt' can provide opportunities for investors.
Debt in the form of corporate bonds typically offer higher rates of interest than savings accounts or government bonds, while still offering greater certainty of returns than investing in shares, and a more secure income stream than dividends.
Janus Henderson head of Australia Matt Gaden said: "Although more than half of the companies in our index took on more borrowing last year, the report highlights that in many cases debt can increase shareholder returns, as long as it's appropriate."
"The bond market continues to present strong investment opportunities and this report also highlights the valuable role debt can play in a well-functioning economy and in well managed companies, along with the risks," Mr Gaden said.
"As long as companies have enough cash to bridge the lockdown gap, we think that corporate bonds returns may look increasingly attractive to investors."