Russia stands ready to tap the Eurobond market any moment, and it expects foreigners’ share among holders of its OFZ treasury bonds to stabilise in 2021 despite the threat of fresh U.S. sanctions, a deputy finance minister told Reuters.
The risk of new sanctions increased after U.S. President Joe Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin would “pay a price” for directing efforts to swing the 2020 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump. Moscow denies any wrongdoing.
Timur Maksimov said the latest “hostile statements” had increased volatility on the Russian market, referring to a sell-off in the rouble and bonds following Biden’s rhetoric.
“But this situation cannot last forever and, as we know, there is always calm after the storm,” Maksimov said in an interview with Reuters.
Russia last tapped the global market with euro-denominated Eurobonds in November, in the face of U.S. sanctions that banned U.S. banks from buying sovereign Eurobonds directly from Russia.
Moscow has lived through a series of Western sanctions since 2014, when Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea. It has seen many rounds of increased volatility, but its dependence on the debt market increased significantly only in 2020.
Running out of options to bolster public finances strained by the pandemic and the collapse of oil prices, its main export, Russia more than doubled its domestic borrowing last year to around 5.3 trillion roubles ($71.36 billion).
In an attempt to lower this dependence and keep its ratio of debt to gross domestic product near 20%, Russia is now considering a reduction of 700 billion roubles in the 3.7 trillion-rouble borrowing programme planned for 2021 Maksimov said. But Moscow is keeping the door open for borrowing abroad.
“We are ready (to issue a Eurobond) virtually any moment. Nervousness on the market creates some negative background, and we are in no rush,” Maksimov said.
Maksimov did not say what currency the bond would be denominated in.
Russia’s 2021 Eurobond plan envisages borrowing the equivalent of $3 billion, the amount it is able to raise via a couple of weekly OFZ bond auctions, Maksimov said.
Rouble-denominated OFZ bonds are popular among foreign investors thanks to their lucrative yields.
While non-residents increased their nominal OFZ holdings to 3.2 trillion roubles as of Feb. 1, up 6% year on year, their share among OFZ holders slid to near 23% from 34% a year ago as Russia stepped up bond issuance.
Maksimov said non-residents’ share among OFZ holders would stabilise at around 25% in the mid-term as Russia scales down state borrowing and returns to its fiscal rule that was relaxed in 2020 amid the pandemic.
($1 = 74.2762 roubles)
Writing by Andrey Ostroukh; editing by Katya Golubkova, Larry King