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New year brings new surge in US corporate bankruptcies

More companies turned to U.S. bankruptcy courts in the early days of the new year, a sign of continuing struggles for many industries during the coronavirus era.

A total of 33 companies entered bankruptcy proceedings between Jan. 1 and Jan. 19, exceeding the number of filings during any comparable period since 2012, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. The initial surge follows a 10-year record of 630 corporate bankruptcies in 2020.

Companies that entered bankruptcy proceedings between Jan. 1 and Jan. 19 include hotel operator Wardman Hotel Owner LLC, Kansas-based energy company Ferrellgas Partners LP and consumer lender Aura Financial Corp.

Aura Financial filed a voluntary petition for liquidation under Chapter 7 on Jan. 9. Co-founder and CEO James Gutierrez said in a Jan. 11 LinkedIn post that the company is shutting down due to the disruption and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

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Consumer-focused industries continue to account for a higher share of filings than other sectors, with eight companies entering bankruptcy in January so far. Nearly 160 consumer-focused companies went bankrupt in 2020 as struggling retailers faced a breaking point. Notable filings from the sector in 2020 include Ascena Retail Group Inc., Tailored Brands Inc., Stein Mart Inc. and J. C. Penney Co. Inc., which has changed its name to Old Copper Co. Inc. and is looking for a new CEO after the departure of Jill Soltau.

Among the hardest-hit companies in retail is women's apparel seller Christopher & Banks Corp., which sought court protection on Jan. 13 and plans to close "a significant portion, if not all, of its brick-and-mortar stores," according to a statement.

Editor's note: This Data Dispatch is updated on a biweekly basis and the last edition was published Jan. 5. Market Intelligence may remove companies from this list if it discovers that their total assets and liabilities do not meet the threshold requirement for inclusion. Click here to download the charts.

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