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Biz Prof Says Corporate Bankruptcies to Hit 300 in ’09

October 5, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Editor’s Note: Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. and Monaco Coach Corp. remain on Robert Salomon’s list of what he calls “noteworthy” bankruptcies of 2009. The associate professor of management at the Stern School of Business, New York University, filed the following story on his blog at http://blog.robertsalomon.com/2009/10/05/notable-bankruptcies-of-2009-q3/ 

In January I predicted that “major” bankruptcies in 2009 would challenge the 383 mark set in 2001 (the high-water mark after the dotcom bubble). I even suggested that it was possible that we could exceed 400 “major” bankruptcies in 2009.

According to Bankruptcydata.com, there have been 208 “major” filings thus far in 2009. Assuming that bankruptcies are equally distributed throughout the year, this puts us on pace for 277 bankruptcies. That is tracking well shy of my prediction. In fact, bankruptcies were down significantly from Q2 to Q3, and have been trending downward throughout the year.

That stylized fact begs the question: Is that a “green shoot” dip in bankruptcy filings, or might the Fed/Treasury liquidity programs be keeping weaker firms on artificial life support?

Although I cannot be sure why bankruptcies have tracked lower than forecast — whether due to a better-than-expected economy or government intervention (or some combination of the two) — I am certain that my prediction was way off. At this point then, if the bankruptcy pace quickens in the 4th quarter (as is typical), the final number will likely come in around 300. With 300 major bankruptcies, we would exceed last year’s number by 30%.

But looking forward, the question now becomes: What should we expect for 2010? I will wait for the final 2009 numbers to make a definitive prediction, but right now, my informed guess would be 350, … and that’s even if the economy rebounds in 2010, barring a double-dip recession scenario.

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