U.S. bankruptcies double 2008 pace

Tom Skidmore, who was laid off in December from his sales career with Nortel, talks with another unemployed person at a "job club" at the Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Olathe, Kansas February 25, 2009. REUTERS/Dave Kaup

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bankruptcies by publicly traded U.S. companies are running at twice their 2008 pace so far this year, fueled by large companies with assets of more than $1 billion, according to data released Monday by research firm

Through Tuesday, there have been 46 Chapter 11 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings in 2009 by public companies with total combined assets of $74 billion, a total nearly seven times greater than the $11 billion in assets of the 21 companies that had filed by this date last year.

Thirteen of the 2009 bankruptcies were by companies with assets of more than $1 billion before their filings, including petrochemicals maker Lyondell Chemical Co ACCELC.UL, telecommunications company Nortel Networks NT.TO, and Smurfit-Stone Container Corp SSCCQ.PK.

In 2007, the total assets of companies filing for bankruptcy were $782 million by this time of year, according to

Despite the spike, the rate of bankruptcies is still below that of 2002, a record-breaking year that had seen 60 public company bankruptcies by early March.

Reporting by Phil Wahba, editing by Matthew Lewis