Category Archives: Russian external debt

15/8/15: Russian External Debt: Big Deleveraging, Smaller Future Pressures

Readers of this blog would have noted that in the past I referenced Russian companies cross-holdings of own debt in adjusting some of the external debt statistics for Russia. As I explained before, large share of the external debt owed by banks and companies is loans and other debt instruments issued by their parents and subsidiaries and direct equity investors - in other words, it is debt that can be easily rolled over or cross-cancelled within the company accounts.

This week, Central Bank of Russia did the same when it produced new estimate for external debt maturing in September-December 2015. The CBR excluded “intra-group operations” and the new estimate is based on past debt-servicing trends and a survey of 30 largest companies.

As the result of revisions, CBR now estimates that external debt coming due for Russian banks and non-financial corporations will be around USD35 billion, down on previously estimated USD61 billion.

CBR also estimated cash and liquid foreign assets holdings of Russian banks and non-bank corporations at USD135 billion on top of USD20 billion current account surplus due (assuming oil at USD40 pb) and USD14 billion of CBR own funds available for forex repo lending.

Here are the most recent charts for Russian external debt maturity, excluding most recent update for corporate and banks debt:

As the above table shows, in 12 months through June 2015, Russian Total External Debt fell 24%, down USD176.6 billion - much of it due to devaluation of the ruble and repayments of maturing debt. Of this, Government debt is down USD22.1 billion or 39% - a huge drop. Banks managed to deleverage out of USD59.9 billion in 12 months through June 2015 (down 29%) and Other Sectors external liabilities were down USD88.8 billion (-20%).

These are absolutely massive figures indicating:
1) One of the underlying causes of the ongoing economic recession (contracting credit supply and debt repayments drag on investment and consumer credit);
2) Strengthening of corporate and banks' balance sheets; and
3) Overall longer term improvement in Russian debt exposures.

3/8/15: IMF on Russian Economy: Private Sector Debt

Continuing with IMF analysis of the Russian economy, recall that
- The first post here covered GDP growth projections (upgraded)
- External Debt and Fiscal positions (a mixed bag with broadly positive supports but weaker longer-term sustainability issues relating to deficits).

This time around, let's take a look at IMF analysis of Private Sector Debt.

As IMF notes, economic crisis is weighing pretty heavily on banks' Non-performing Loans:

In part, the above is down to hefty write downs taken by the banks on Ukrainian assets (Russian banks were some of the largest lenders to Ukraine in the past) both in corporate and household sectors.

However, thanks to deleveraging (primarily in the corporate sector, due to sanctions, and some in household sector, due to economic conditions), Loan to Deposits ratio is on the declining trajectory:
Note: Here is a chart on deleveraging of the corporate sector and for Russian banks:

In line with changes in demand for debt redemptions, FX rates, as well as due to some supports from the Federal Government, banks' exposure to Central Bank funding lines has moderated from the crisis peak, though it remains highly elevated:

Illustrating the severity of sanctions, corporate funding from external lenders and markets has been nil:

And Gross External Debt is falling (deleveraging) on foot of cut-off markets and increased borrowing costs:

So companies are heading into domestic markets to borrow (banks - first chart below, bonds - second chart below):


1) Corporate external debt is falling:

2) Household debt is already low:

3) But the problem is that deleveraging under sanctions is coinciding with economic contraction (primarily driven by lower oil prices), which means that Government reserve funds (while still sufficient) are not being replenished. IMF correctly sees this as a long term problem:

So top of the line conclusion here is that banking sector remains highly pressured by sanctions and falling profitability, as well as rising NPLs. Credit issuance is supported not by new capital formation (investment) but by corporates switching away from foreign debt toward domestic debt. Deleveraging, while long-term positive, is painful for the economy. While the system buffers remain sufficient for now, long term, Russia will require serious changes to fiscal rules to strengthen its reserves buffers over time.

3/8/15: IMF on Russian Economy: Debt Sustainability

In the previous post, I covered IMF latest analysis of Russian GDP growth. Here, another key theme from the IMF Article IV report on Russia: fiscal policy sustainability.

In its latest assessment of the Russian economy, IMF has reduced its forecast for General Government deficit for 2015, from -3.69% of GDP back in April 2015 to -3.3% of GDP in the latest report. However, in line with new Budgetary framework, the IMF revised its forecasts for 2016-2020 deficits to show poorer fiscal performance:

In line with worsening deficits from 2016 on, IMF is also projecting higher government debt (gross debt, inclusive of state guarantees):

Still, the IMF appears to be quite happy with the overall debt and fiscal sustainability over the short run and is taking a view that over the next 2-3 years, fiscal policy must provide some upside supports to investment.

One of the reasons for this is that IMF sees continued strong buffers on fiscal reserves side into 2020, with Gross international reserves of USD362.4 billion and 374.8 billion in 2015-2016 amounting to 13.6 months of imports and providing cover for 496% and 281% of short term debt, respectively.

Furthermore, IMF expects debt levels to remain benign, both in terms of Government debt and Private sector debt as the chart above shows.

Note: I will cover Private Sector Debt developments in a separate post, so stay tuned.


1) External debt situation remains positive and is improving in the sector with weaker performance (corporate sector):
Note: above figures do not net out debt written to Russian banks and corporates by their parent and subsidiary entities located outside Russia, as well as direct investment / equity -linked debt.

2) " sector shows maturity risk with short-term assets exceeding short-term debt in aggregate"

3) Fiscal stance appears to be expansionary, but moderate, with deficits below 4% of GDP forecast for the worst performance year of 2016.

4) "Exchange rate and liquidity risks are mitigated by the CBR's large reserve level"

Stay tuned for more analysis, including debt positions across various sectors.

1/5/15: Russian Economy: Latest Forecasts and Debates

Russian economy has been surprising to the upside in recent months, although that assessment is conditioned heavily by the fact that 'upside' really means lower rate (than expected) of economic decline and stabilised oil prices at above USD55 pb threshold. On the former front, 1Q 2015 decline in real GDP is now estimated at 2.2% y/y - well below -3% official forecast (reiterated as recently as on April 1) and -2.8% contraction forecast just last week, and -4.05% consensus forecast for FY 2015. It is worth noting that contraction in GDP did accelerate between February (-1.2% y/y) and March (-3.4% y/y). 2Q 2015 forecast remains at -3%.

In line with this, there have been some optimistic revisions to the official forecasts. Russian economy ministry has produced yet another (fourth in just two months) forecast with expected GDP decline of 2.8% this year. Crucially, even 2.8% decline forecast figure still assumes oil price of USD50 pb. Similarly, the Economy Ministry latest forecast for 2016 continues to assume oil at USD60 pb, but now estimates 2016 GDP growth at +2.3%

These are central estimates absent added stimulus. In recent weeks, Russian Government has been working on estimating possible impact of using up to 80% of the National Welfare Fund reserves to boost domestic infrastructure investment. This is expected to form the 3 year action plan to support economic growth that is expected to raise domestic investment to 22-24% of GDP by 2020 from current 18%. The objective is to push Russian growth toward 3.5-4% mark by 2018, while increasing reliance on private enterprise investment and entrepreneurship to drive this growth.

An in line with this (investment) objective, the CBR cut its key rate this week by 150bps to 12.5%. My expectation is that we will see rates at around 10%-10.5% before the end of 2015. From CBR's statement: "According to Bank of Russia estimates, as of 27 April, annual consumer price growth rate stood at 16.5%. High rates of annual inflation are conditioned primarily by short-term factors: ruble depreciation in late 2014 — January 2015 and external trade restrictions. Meanwhile, monthly consumer price growth is estimated to have declined on the average to 1.0% in March-April from 3.1% in January-February, and annual inflation tends to stabilise. Lower consumer demand amid contracting real income and ruble appreciation in the recent months curbed prices. Inflation expectations of the population decreased against this backdrop. Current monetary conditions also facilitate the slowdown in consumer price growth. Money supply (M2) growth rate remains low. Lending and deposit rates are adjusted downwards under the influence of previous Bank of Russia decisions to reduce the key rate. However, they remain high, on the one hand, contributing to attractiveness of ruble savings, and, on the other hand, alongside with tighter borrower and collateral requirements, resulting in lower annual lending growth."

There is an interesting discussion about the ongoing strengthening in Russian economic outlook here: Here's an interesting point: "Russian-born investment banker Ruben Vardanyan pointed out that the collapse of the ruble left much of the economy untouched, with roughly 90% of the population not inclined to buy imported goods. And that population, Vardanyan points out, has only increased its support for Vladimir Putin in the months following the imposition of sanctions." I am not so sure about 90% not inclined to buy imports, but one thing Vardanyan is right about is that imports substitution is growing and this has brought some good news for producers in the short run, whilst supporting the case for raising investment in the medium term.

Meanwhile, The Economist does a reality check on bullish view of the Russian economy:

The Economist is right on some points, but, sadly, they miss a major one when they are talking about the pressures from USD100bn of external debt maturing in 2015.

Here is why.

Russia's public and private sector foreign debt that will mature in the rest of this year (see details here: does not really amount to USD 100bn.

Foreign currency-denominated debt maturing in May-December 2015 amounts to USD68.8 billion and the balance to the USD100bn is Ruble-denominated debt which represents no significant challenge in funding. Of the USD68.8 billion of foreign exchange debt maturing, only USD2.01 billion is Government debt. Do note - USD611 million of this is old USSR-time debt.

Corporate liabilities maturing in May-December 2015 amounts to USD45.43 billion. Of which USD12.46 billion are liabilities to direct investors and can be easily rolled over. Some USD963 million of the remainder is various trade credits and leases. Also, should the crunch come back, extendable and cross-referenced. Which leaves USD32.07 billion of corporate debt redeemable. Some 20% of the total corporate debt is inter-company debt, which means that - roughly-speaking - the real corporate debt that will have to be rolled over or redeemed in the remaining months of 2015 is around USD26-27 billion. Add to this that Russian companies have been able to roll over debt in the markets recently and there is an ongoing mini-boom in Russian corporate debt and equity, and one can be pretty much certain that the overall net burden on foreign exchange reserves from maturing corporate debt is going to be manageable.

The balance of debt maturing in May-December 2015 involves banks liabilities. All are loans and deposits (except for demand deposits) including debt liabilities to direct investors and to direct investment enterprises. Which means that around 25-33% of the total banks liabilities USD26.57 billion maturing is cross-referenced to group-related debts and investor-related liabilities. Again, should a crunch come, these can be rolled over internally. The balance of USD19.9 billion will have to be funded.

So let's take in the panic USD100 billion of foreign debt claimed to be still maturing in 2015 and recognise that less than USD50 billion of that is likely to be a potential (and I stress, potential) drain on Russian foreign exchange reserves. All of a sudden, panicked references in the likes of The Economist become much less panicked.

Meanwhile, Russian economy continues to post current account surpluses, and as imports continue to shrink, Russian producers' margins are getting stronger just as their balance sheets get healthier (due to some debt redemptions). It's a tough process - deleveraging the economy against adverse headwinds - but it is hardly a calamity. And The Economist, were it to shed its usual anti-Russian biases, would know as much.

That said, significant risks remain, which means that a prudent view of the Russian economy should be somewhere between The Economist's scare crow and the Fortune's and the Economy Ministry's cheerleading. Shall we say to expect, on foot of current data and outlook, the 2015 GDP growth to come in at -3.5-4%, with 2016 economic growth to come in at +1.5-2%?

14/4/15: Russian external Debt Redemptions: Q1 2015 – Q3 2016

With Q1 out of the way, Russia passed a significant milestone in terms of 2015 external debt redemptions.

In total USD36.647 billion of external debt matured in Q1 2015, the highest peak for the period of Q1 2015 - Q3 2016. Even controlling for inter-company loans and equity positions, the figure was around USD24 billion for Q1 2015, again, the highest for the entire 2015 and the first three quarters of 2016.

Here is the breakdown of maturing external debts:

All in, over the last 3 quarters alone, Russia has managed to repay and roll over USD156.23 billion worth of external debt, with net repayment estimated at around USD96.5 billion.

Painful in the short run, this is not exactly weakening Russian economy in terms of forward debt/GDP and other debt-linked ratios.