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A Shell employee in Bangkok filling up someone's gas tank. Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images

Already struggling with mounting debt and falling market valuations, energy companies are at serious risk for mass bond defaults, especially those rated below investment grade, as oil prices now have fallen by more than 50% from their early January peak.

What's happening: Oil explorers and producers have around $86 billion of debt maturing over the next four years and companies with junk-rated debt were expected to have a hard time getting new financing this year, even before the COVID-19 and the weekend's OPEC fallout.

  • Moody's Investors Service warned in February that the likelihood oil and gas companies would see a wave of defaults was growing, the result of "continuing overproduction, depressed natural gas prices and widespread investor risk aversion toward the exploration and production sector."

Plus, the ratings agency said in a separate note in early February that the spike in energy junk-bond defaults last year was a “stalled not finished” cycle of fallout from the commodity crisis.

  • Debt-servicing problems have been “moving down the chain,” from exploration and production companies to oil-field services, support transportation, and midstream pipeline companies.

The big picture: Energy companies are the biggest issuers of junk bonds, accounting for more than 11% of the U.S. high-yield market.

  • “This was literally the last thing U.S. high-yield energy producers needed,” John McClain, a portfolio manager at Diamond Hill Capital Management, told FT. “There will be blood in the market on Monday.”

Go deeper: Oil prices plunge as market absorbs OPEC-Russia split

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 mins ago - World

Uganda's election: Museveni declared winner, Wine claims fraud

Wine rejected the official results of the election. Photo: Sumy Sadruni/AFP via Getty

Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of a sixth presidential term on Saturday, with official results giving him 59% to 35% for Bobi Wine, the singer-turned-opposition leader.

Why it matters: This announcement was predictable, as the election was neither free nor fair and Museveni had no intention of surrendering power after 35 years. But Wine — who posed a strong challenged to Museveni, particularly in urban areas, and was beaten and arrested during the campaign — has said he will present evidence of fraud. The big question is whether he will mobilize mass resistance in the streets.

Off the Rails

Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”

45 mins ago - World

Armin Laschet elected as leader of Merkel's CDU party in Germany

Armin Laschet. Photo: Christian Marquar - Pool/Getty Images

Armin Laschet, the centrist governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, was elected on Saturday as the new leader of Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), defeating the more conservative Friedrich Merz by a 521-466 margin.

Why it matters: Laschet is now the most likely successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel as the standard bearer of the German center-right heading into September's elections. With Merkel preparing to step down after 16 years in power, Laschet is seen as a continuity candidate.