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Russia may be in default, Moody's says

Stock Markets Apr 15, 2022 04:35AM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A stop road sign is seen next to skyscrapers at Moscow International business centre, also known as "Moskva-City", in Moscow, Russia April 14, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
 
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By Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON (Reuters) - Moody's (NYSE:MCO) said Russia may be in default because it tried to service its dollar bonds in roubles, which would be one of the starkest consequences to date of Moscow's exclusion from the Western financial system since President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

If Moscow is declared in default, it would mark Russia's first major default on foreign bonds since the years following the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, though the Kremlin says the West is forcing a default by imposing crippling sanctions.

Russia made a payment due on April 4 on two sovereign bonds - maturing in 2022 and 2042 - in roubles rather than the dollars it was mandated to pay under the terms of the securities.

Russia "therefore may be considered a default under Moody's definition if not cured by 4 May, which is the end of the grace period," Moody's said in a statement on Thursday.

"The bond contracts have no provision for repayment in any other currency other than dollars."

Moody's said that while some Russian eurobonds issued after 2018 allow payments in roubles under some conditions, those issued before 2018 - such as those maturing in 2022 and 2042 - do not.

"Moody's view is that investors did not obtain the foreign-currency contractual promise on the payment due date," Moody's said.

The Russian finance ministry did not respond to a request for comment on Friday. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told the Izvestia newspaper earlier this month that if Russia is forced into a default, it will take legal action.

Before Putin's Feb. 24 order for what he casts as a special military operation in Ukraine, Russia was rated as investment grade. But its sovereign bonds have become a target in what the Kremlin says is an economic war waged by the United States.

Russia in 1998 defaulted on $40 billion in domestic debt and devalued the rouble under President Boris Yeltsin because it was effectively bankrupt after the Asian debt crisis and falling oil prices shook confidence in its short-term rouble debt.

In 1918 Bolshevik revolutionaries under Vladimir Lenin repudiated Tsarist debt, shocking global debt markets because Russia then had one of the world's biggest foreign debt piles.

This time, Russia has the money but can't pay because the reserves - the world's fourth largest - that Putin ordered be built up for just such a crisis are frozen by the United States, European Union, Britain and Canada.

DEFAULT

As Russia could not and would not borrow right now, a default would be largely symbolic, marking the tumultuous finale to its post-Cold War attempt to integrate into the West's financial architecture.

While Russia has only $40 billion in international bonds outstanding across 15 dollar or euro-denominated issues, its corporates have built up vastly more foreign debt.

The U.S. Treasury this month halted Russia's ability to use foreign currency reserves held by the Russian central bank at U.S. financial institutions to pay its debt.

The Kremlin says the West has already defaulted on its obligations to Russia by freezing its reserves, and that it wants a new system to replace the Bretton Woods financial architecture established by the Western powers in 1944.

S&P earlier this month lowered Russia's foreign currency ratings to "selective default" on increased risks that Moscow will not be able and willing to honor its commitments to foreign debtholders.

Russia's economy is heading for the worst contraction since the years following the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, with soaring inflation and capital flight.

Russia may be in default, Moody's says
 

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Comments (8)
Todd Gray
Todd Gray Apr 15, 2022 8:25PM ET
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To punish Russia, the West has made sure the West does not get its bond payments. A 5 year old couldn't govern that poorly. That's plain nutty.
Edward Adigunawan
Edward Adigunawan Apr 15, 2022 7:41PM ET
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well the Us and europe is making sure of it to default . there is no need for moodys to tell me about that
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Apr 15, 2022 11:39AM ET
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"Russia may be in default"  -- may? I thought Russia is already defaulting on some of the loans?
Kaushal Shah
Kaushal Shah Apr 15, 2022 7:06AM ET
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Putin is changing world market $ is getting weaker now & $ dependency is getting low day by day. we all are at cursp of big big financial transformation
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Apr 15, 2022 7:06AM ET
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"$ is getting weaker now"  -- really?  USD has been gaining in the last 2 months vs euro, yen, GB pound, indian rupee, etc., but you just dreaming about that big financial transformation.....
Lawrenti Berija
Lawrenti Berija Apr 15, 2022 6:58AM ET
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the western economies are is heading for the worst contraction since the years following the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, with soaring inflation and capital flight.
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Apr 15, 2022 6:58AM ET
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"....capital flight"  -- really, where are the capital flighting to?
gab nea
gab nea Apr 15, 2022 6:57AM ET
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who cares what putin says anymore. he is destroying russia, and annihilating his neighbors children, women and elders. he is hated worldwide. oh except one yellow haired guy that thinks he is genius. two peas in a pod!
Kaushal Shah
Kaushal Shah Apr 15, 2022 6:57AM ET
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Putin is changing world market $ is getting weaker now & $ dependency is getting low day by day. we all are at cursp of big big financial transformation
Trevor Roberts
LimitUp Apr 15, 2022 6:57AM ET
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You dont understand how the yellow haired guy kept these tyrants in check. These tyrants normally make a move when you have weak leadership in the White House. The reality is this is a great oppurtunity for Ukraine to earn lasting freedom.
Pavel Marchenko
Pavel Marchenko Apr 15, 2022 4:26AM ET
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Agreed
Pavel Marchenko
Pavel Marchenko Apr 15, 2022 4:24AM ET
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Thanks
 
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