Which countries have the highest level of corporate debt?

New research from Utility Bidder explored which countries around the world have the highest levels of corporate debt as a percentage of the country’s GDP. So, we’ve used this data to help create this week’s Business Leader Top 12: which countries have the highest level of corporate debt?

This list is ranked from top to bottom of the countries with the most corporate debt.

Luxembourg

You wouldn’t think that a country so small could have so much corporate debt but seeing as renowned tax haven Luxembourg has 17,000 corporations registered per square kilometre, perhaps it’s not so surprising to learn that the landlocked European country’s corporate debt totals 391.5% of its GDP, meaning it holds the official title of country with the most corporate debt.

Ireland

With Ireland’s corporate debt sitting at 319.9% of its GDP, the Emerald Isle ranks second on the list. What is particularly interesting about Ireland is that its corporate debt is valued around 175% higher than the average of the other countries featured on this list.

Ireland ranks fifth in the world for total GDP per capita and is the European home of Apple, Google, Microsoft and a range of other European tech firms.

Cyprus

Sunny Cyprus, a popular Mediterranean destination for British holidaymakers, is number three on our list. The country’s corporate debt is nearly two and a half times higher than its total GDP (245.7%), which some might argue is a little surprising because Cyprus is not considered a tax haven as such.

However, it does offer one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the EU (12.5%) and non-resident-based companies are completely free from all local taxation, which means it’s a very popular location for corporations to base themselves.

Malta

Despite its small size compared to some of the other countries on the list, Malta has racked up a hugely significant total of corporate debt as a percentage of its GDP: 214.1%.

Malta is a very popular location for corporations to base themselves because companies based on the island pay the lowest tax on profits out of anywhere in the EU. However, the country is ranked 129th in the world in terms of total GDP, which is why its corporate debt is so high.

France

Eiffel Tower, ParisOne of the major European nations throughout history, France remains one of the wealthiest countries in the world today; the country is currently seventh in the world in terms of total GDP, which stands at $2.9tn.

However, the country’s corporate debt stands at 193.7% of its GDP, which puts it at number 5 on this list and means the total of corporate debt is around the $5.6tn mark, which is outrageously large.

Belgium

France’s north-eastern neighbour, Belgium is renowned around the world for its beautifully rich chocolate and the quality of its lagers. But what it’s not quite so well known for is its remarkably high levels of corporate debt, which currently stands at 188.3% of its GDP.

Belgium is a wealthy country too, boasting of a total GDP of $578bn, which means its corporate debt surpasses the $1tn mark.

Norway

The first of the Scandinavian countries on our list, Norway’s corporate debt stands at 178.9% of its GDP. Known for its strongly integrated welfare system and high living standards, the country is currently ranked 13th in the world for GDP per capita and has a total GDP of $444.52bn in 2021, according to Statista. Therefore, bringing the total of its corporate debt to around $795.24bn.

Sweden

Excellent education, quality healthcare, good wages and higher levels of taxation are just some of the many things that Sweden is renowned for.

Incredibly, this Nordic country’s corporate debt as a percentage of its GDP is also remarkably similar to its Scandinavian counterpart, Norway. It currently stands at 178.1%, meaning there is just a 0.8% difference between the two. However, Sweden’s total GDP is valued at $625.94bn, meaning its total corporate debt is significantly higher.

Netherlands

AmsterdamIn direct contrast to Netherlands’ remarkably flat land mass is its steep levels of corporate debt, which currently account for 177% of the country’s GDP.

The Netherlands is another incredibly wealthy country; its total GDP of just over $1tn puts it at number 17 on the list of wealthiest countries in the world. This level of wealth means that its corporate debt currently stands at a whopping $1.77tn.

Denmark

The final Scandinavian country to make the list is Denmark. The value of its corporate debt is 171.4% of its GDP, whilst the country holds the rank of 12th in the world in terms of GDP per capita, owing to its high level of government services and transfers, and reliance on foreign trade.

With the country’s total GDP totalling $392.57bn, it has a sizable total corporate debt of $672.77bn.

Russia

Russia is another incredibly wealthy country making up this list. Wealth that is largely owed to its incredible geographical size and huge supply of natural resources, especially oil and natural gas.

It’s currently ranked at number 11 in the world in terms of total GDP, which is valued at $1.7tn. However, as its corporate debt currently sits at 169.9% of this value, its total corporate debt is a whopping $2.88 trillion.

Bulgaria

The final country on this week’s Business Leader Top 12 is Bulgaria, and if you hadn’t already noticed, all of the countries on this list are in Europe.

The Balkan state’s corporate debt currently stands at 169.9%, which is equal to that of Russia. However, its total GDP and total corporate debt are much smaller, standing at $77.78bn and $132.14bn respectively.

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