That's about five times the total paid back last year. The figure, comprising $800bn of debt from financial companies and $200bn from non-financial firms, covers all borrowings in the form of tradable debt, including bank loans, notes and bonds. And it makes for one almighty IOU. So you don't need a high-resolution crystal ball if you want to second-guess the troubles of the year ahead. Not only will businesses be looking at a period of lower turnover and profit, they will be struggling to finance their debts at the same time. And the banks suddenly aren't exactly queuing up to help with new loans. With the flood of credit of the past 10 years turning into a trickle, many weaker companies may well go the way of Woolworths, a retail chain whose continued survival had more to do with cheap and abundant credit than a strong offering. It may not be fashionable, but if you can't refinance, it's time to pay back. Companies will have to get used to living within their means. Tears will be shed, but at least this time next year there will be a whole lot less debt kicking around than there is now, which can't be a bad thing.
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