Best of AP — Honorable Mention


Zombies: Ranks of world’s most debt-hobbled companies are soaring, and not all will survive

The Bed Bath & Beyond corporate headquarters building stands in Union, N.J., Wednesday, June 5, 2024. An Associated Press analysis found the number of publicly-traded “zombie” companies — those so laden with debt they're struggling to pay even the interest on their loans — has soared to nearly 7,000 around the world, including 2,000 in the United States. AP PHOTO / STEFAN JEREMIAH

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Investigative Reporter Bernard Condon did a deep-dive into global analysis showing the surge of debt-laden “zombie companies,” with an AP-exclusive tally of nearly 7,000 such companies around the world that have been merely limping by, struggling to pay even the interest on their loans for years. 

Condon’s deeply reported, well-written story explained how these firms — including such well-known names as Carnival, Wayfair, Peleton and JetBlue Airways — piled up debt for years when interest rates were low, only to be whiplashed by stubborn inflation that has pushed borrowing costs to decade highs. 

He found that many of these mostly small and mid-sized walking wounded could soon be facing their days of reckoning, with due dates looming on hundreds of billions of dollars of loans they may not be able to pay back. His analysis calculated that through the summer and into September, when many investors now expect the first and only Fed cut this year, zombies will have to pay off $1.1 trillion of loans. 

That reporting was complemented by a Takeaways glance, photos and engaging graphics by Kevin Vineys showing the alarming growth of such zombies in the world’s 12 biggest economies, and the extent of corporate debt in those countries. 

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