VTB mulls Russian debut on sukuk market

MOSCOW, March 18 Wed Mar 18, 2009 7:30pm IST

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MOSCOW, March 18 (Reuters) - Russia's second largest bank VTB (VTBR.MM) may become the country's first issuer of sukuk or Islamic bonds and is considering a deal worth several million dollars, VTB's investment banking head said on Wednesday.

Russian companies need to be more creative about raising capital as usual sources of funding have dried up in the global credit crunch and around $100 billion of foreign corporate debt payments are due this year. "We are looking at the possibility of entering this market (Islamic finance) -- both for us and for our clients," VTB Capital head Yuri Solovyov told journalists, adding that an issue from VTB could be worth several million dollars.

He declined to name which other Russian companies had expressed interest in such financing.

Globally, $14.9 billion worth of sukuk were issued last year, less than half 2007's issuance, according to Standard & Poor's.

To comply with Islam's ban on interest, sukuk are structured as profit-sharing or rental agreements, and returns are derived from underlying physical assets such as commodities or real estate. Investment, pork, alcohol, gambling and pornography is banned.

To date there have been no Russian issuers of sukuk.

VTB Capital and Liquidity Management House, a subsidiary of Kuwait Finance House (KFIN.KW), on Wednesday signed a protocol of intention aimed at cooperating in the development of Islamic finance in Russia and other former Soviet countries. (Reporting by Oksana Kobzeva, writing by Toni Vorobyova; Editing by David Cowell)