Monday, May 16

As Russia risks default, country sends order for coupon payments

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The Russian Finance Ministry said on Monday it has sent an order to a correspondent bank for the payment of coupons on eurobonds amounting to $117.2 million, a signal to markets waiting to see whether Russia will default on its sovereign debt.

The eurobonds in question, maturing in 2023 and 2043, were both last trading at 20 cents on the dollar or lower and are among the first to have scheduled after Russia was hit by related sanctions payments to its invasion of Ukraine.

The restrictions meant it was unclear whether Russia would be able, or willing, to make the payments.

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“This week, on Wednesday, we are due to repay another Eurobond coupon,” Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told state TV on Monday. “And today, on Monday, we prepared a payment document in foreign currency and will give an order to foreign banks to execute this payment. We will keep an eye on this payment document and monitor how banks will execute our (payment) orders.”

The finance ministry said payments will be made in roubles if sanctions prevent banks from honoring debts in the currency of issue.

Reuters could not immediately confirm with bond holders that the payment was under way.

Russia has 15 international bonds with a face value of around $40 billion outstanding. Around half of the bonds are held by foreign investors.

Trading in Russian assets has all but halted across exchanges outside Moscow.

Russia’s last major external debt default was over a century ago, when Bolsheviks failed to recognize Tsarist debt in the wake of the 1917 revolution.

(Reporting by Reuters)