MOSCOW, April 25 (Reuters) - Russia’s finance ministry said on Tuesday it will start selling treasury bonds to households from April 26, borrowing directly from ordinary Russians for the first time.
The ministry will offer an initial 15 billion roubles ($268.07 million) worth of “OFZ bonds for people” using the vast retail networks of Russia’s two biggest banks, Sberbank and VTB bank.
The three-year bonds will pay a semi-annual coupon which rises by 50 basis points every six months, from an initial 7.5 percent to 10.5 percent by the time they mature.
The finance ministry has said the retail-targeted bonds will help households to save and invest and offer them an alternative to keeping money in the bank.
Perhaps mindful of Russians’ memories of the Soviet Union’s default on state bonds when it collapsed in 1991 and Russia’s own 1998 default and devaluation, the ministry has pledged to ensure timely repayment of the bonds.
There has been no visible advertisement of the bonds in the media, however, something that the finance ministry said it would bet on when promoting the new means of borrowing.
That could hamper demand for the new bonds even though the Russian economy has begun to recover from a crisis caused by the plunge in oil prices and Western sanctions against Moscow.
“I wouldn’t expect strong demand for now. At this stage, bonds are designed for people with better financial literacy. Maybe, at some point, this instrument will become more popular,” said Oleg Kouzmin, an economist at Renaissance Capital in Moscow.
The finance ministry has said the bonds are targeted towards ordinary people with incomes below average, not to experienced market players, but the minimum purchase size of the OFZs for people is 30,000 roubles ($516.82). That compares with an average monthly salary in Russia of 36,703 roubles ($655.94) in 2016, official data shows.
Holdings will be limited to a maximum 15 million roubles per person, the finance ministry said.
Russian treasury bonds are mostly bought by professional investors and enjoy strong demand thanks to lucrative yields of more than 8 percent. The central bank’s key interest rate is currently 9.75 percent, far above annual inflation of around 4 percent.
$1 = 55.9550 roubles Editing by Catherine Evans