FT Lex: Russia is a Creditor to the World - Default Risk Non-existent

Russia is solvent and fully able to pay its debts.  The threat of default - sovereign, public, and private - does not exist.

Mon, Dec 22, 2014 | 7478 Comments
Sberbank - Russia's Biggest Retail Bank

Quote of the day from Financial Times’ Lex Column that sums it all up:

“Officially, Russia is a creditor to the rest of the world. This may have been easy to forget during the last week.

Extreme volatility in the ruble, rising bond yields, and panic in its money markets: all suggest a country about due for a visit from the International Monetary Fund.

Well, the reception from President Vladimir Putin would probably be rather frosty.

Also, the net international investment position (external assets versus liabilities) is $180bn.

So – even given $120bn in external debt owed by Russian banks and companies maturing next year – what’s the problem?”

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The article later makes the valid point that not all of these $180 billion in net external assets can be immediately repatriated to meet debt obligations. 

However to this sum must be added the $400 billion held in reserve by the Russian Central and the operational reserves held by the government and by Russian corporates within Russia. 

Moreover, as we have repeatedly pointed out, the devaluation of the rouble protects Russia’s budget and trade balance and keeps the latter in surplus, ensuring a secure cash flow.

In summary, Russia, both the state and its private businesses, are overall solvent whatever temporary difficulties of liquidity they may run into because of the rouble’s fall.

We would add that one of the persistent errors made in scaremongering articles like this one by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Daily Telegraph is that they write as if the only foreign exchange in Russia available to pay off debts is the $400 billion of reserves held by the Central Bank. 

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That is simply not the case as the above quote from the FT shows.

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