Russia returns to world bond market

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: Russia's government just sold $5 billion worth of so-called Eurobonds. This is the first time Russia has tapped the world bond market since its financial system caved in in the late 90s. Reporter Peter van Dyk has that story from Moscow.


Peter van Dyk: Demand for the new Russian bonds was five times greater than the supply. And there's good reason for that, says Ben Aris, editor of Business New Europe, the leading financial journal in Eastern Europe.

Ben Aris: The state debt, foreign debt, now is only 8 percent of GDP, which is tiny, so it's in a very strong position. These bonds are seen as rock solid. There's no danger of it defaulting as it did 12 years ago.

Back then, in the summer of 1998, Russia's financial system collapsed, and Russia soon defaulted on its debt. The memory of that humiliation has never faded. But times change:

Nikolai Podguzov: The financial shape of Russia now is much, much stronger than 12 years ago.

Nikolai Podguzov of VTB Capital investment bank says the quick rebound of oil prices since the global economic crisis has boosted government finances. Russia doesn't even need the Eurobond money any more.

Podguzov: The Central Bank brought as much as $30 billion into the reserves during the first quarter, and another $5 [billion], $6 billion. This is quite an insignificant amount for Russia I think.

So if the $5.5 billion is insignificant, why issue the bond? Business New Europe's Aris says it's a marketing exercise.

Aris: Russia's rating is on a par with that of Greece and Iceland, both countries which are virtually bankrupt. And the point of the bond is that the bond will be priced on the basis of Russia's macroeconomic fundamentals and not its perception, and this will make investors sit up and take notice of Russia again as an attractive country to invest.

So selling the bond was the easy part. It might take a bit longer to sell international investors on Russia.

In Moscow, I'm Peter van Dyk for Marketplace.

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