Short of debt? Russia, Saudi Arabia to oblige

December 13, 2011

The likes of Greece and Italy may find it tricky to issue international or domestic debt next year, but Russia and Saudi Arabia are stepping up to the plate.

In a week when investors have become increasingly anxious about political risk in Russia (could the Arab Spring be followed by a Russian Winter?), Russia’s undeterred finance ministry said today the country plans to issue a Eurobond early next year and will pick 3-4 banks to lead the deal in the next few weeks, after 22 banks bid for the opportunity.

Russia launched a $5.5 billion bond last year, its first international bond since its 1998 default, as well as  a rouble Eurobond in Feb 2011.

Yields on Russia’s bonds are enough to make peripheral euro zone debtors weep, at 4.5 percent for the country’s $3.5 billion 2020 tranche. Compare that with Italy 10-year debt at 7 percent and Greece 10-year at…well…33 percent.

According to Tim Ash, head of CEEMEA research at RBS:

With pressure on the political front, and an uncertain global environment, the MOF wants to get some cash in the bank. Budget performance this year has been stellar, putting the administration in a strong position to bankroll a Putin election campaign.

Meanwhile, the normally debt-averse but AA- rated Saudi Arabia is in talks with banks about issuing a riyal-denominated sukuk, five banking sources told Reuters yesterday, following a spate of recent Islamic finance bonds from the Gulf region.

Middle East borrowers are looking relatively unscathed by the downdraft in almost all global assets this year.

But even less successful frontier market bonds are more appealing than some euro zone debt. Distressed debt broker Exotix points out that Ivory Coast’s bond, on which it defaulted this year, is trading at higher levels than Greece.

According to Exotix’s analysts:

‘Credit crunch’ does not do justice to what Greece is enduring, ‘Choke’ is a more fitting and ominous description…In our opinion, Greece could yet trigger the collapse of the euro.




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