March 14, 2012 / 10:58 AM / in 6 years

UPDATE 1-Russia poised to issue Eurobond within weeks

* Roadshow to start March 19, placement likely March-end

* Market expects longer-term paper

* Demand seen strong (Changes sources, adds detail, quotes, background)

By Oksana Kobzeva and Lidia Kelly

MOSCOW, March 14 (Reuters) - Russia is poised to place a longer-term Eurobond within weeks, trying to capitalise on improving global debt markets and restored internal political stability that are likely to create a healthy demand for the sovereign paper.

“If market conditions are supportive, issuance may take place in the end of this quarter, or beginning of the next one,” Konstantin Vyshkovsky, head of the debt department at the finance ministry told Reuters on Wednesday.

Sources close to arrangers of the issue told Reuters earlier that the roadshow to pitch the Eurobond to investors would start on March 19 in the United States and Europe.

Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak, the country’s chief financial diplomat in charge of public debt, had said the ministry would wait with a roadshow until after the March 4 presidential election.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin won a six-year presidential term at the election and the recent wave of opposition protests against the result and that of parliamentary polls in December have subsided.

Improving global debt market conditions, helped by the agreement of a second bailout for Greece and a flood of liquidity from the European Central Bank also back the case for moving ahead with the sale.

“If Russia were to place right now, demand would be very high: prices for risky assets have reached their local maximums,” Denis Poryvai, an analyst with Raiffeisenbank said.

Russia’s benchmark Eurobond maturing in 2030 is trading now at a price equal to 120 percent of its nominal value - its highest in a year and yielding around 3.93 percent.

Russia has had to borrow little in recent years due to a budget surplus provided by its huge oil and commodities reserves. But the 2008 financial crisis, allied to spending ahead of the elections, have put some more pressure on public finances and official plans show Moscow will seek some $7 billion in foreign borrowing this year.

Vyshkovsky would not comment on further details of the planned issue, but Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told Reuters in late February that it was targetting interest costs of less than 5 percent, and the finance ministry has pointed to a 30-year paper.

Mexico has issued $2 billion worth of 2044 bonds at a yield of 4.84 percent and $2 billion of 10-year bonds at 3.71 percent. Fellow BRIC economy Brazil was able to borrow $750 million overseas in notes due in 2021 at a yield of 3.45 percent.

In December, Moscow picked Citi, Deutsche Bank , BNP Paribas, VTB and Sberbank as organisers for the Eurobond, which is a bond issued outside the country.

WITH A DISCOUNT

Vadim Khanov, a fixed income trader with Russia’s Gazprombank said that Russia may tap the market twice - with a 20-year and a 30-year paper in the amount of $3.5 billion.

“Such a volume is well perceived by the market - more will look ‘heavy’,” Khanov said.

Thanks to high oil prices in the past 12 months, Russia’s budget hole has been less than anticipated and a strong balance sheet, with a sovereign debt of just 11 percent of GDP, puts it in a better position than many developed economies.

Its finance ministry has said it will tap international markets each year to build a solid sovereign credit history and pave the way for corporate bond issuance.

“Russia has no need for cash: it can place as much as the market is willing to take at a maximum price,” Raiffeisenbank’s Poryvai said.

“I believe the strategy here is not in maximising the volume, but minimising profit to form some sort of a benchmark and improve market conditions for issuance of Russia’s quasi-sovereign bonds.”

Demand for Russia’s domestically-issued debt has surpassed the expectations of the finance ministry, although it fell short at an auction last week that followed domestic protests and a dip in global sentiment.

While the share of foreign buyers last year at the weekly treasury auctions remained in single digits, this year it has jumped to nearly half.

Moscow plans to borrow 1.4 trillion roubles on its internal market this year or around 2 percent of gross domestic product, while the budget deficit is envisaged at 1.5 percent of GDP.

“The Russian bond market (OFZ) will be the fastest growing emerging markets local bond market in 2012,” analysts at Morgan Stanley wrote in a recent note.

“Given its strong fiscal position and the recent surge in oil prices, Russia has flexibility about the timing and volume of issuance. Nevertheless, we expect the finance ministry to issue the programmed volume, assuming a supportive market backdrop.” (Additional reporting by Dasha Korsunskaya and Elena Orekhova; Writing by Lidia Kelly; editing by Patrick Graham)

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