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Russia on the verge of debt default

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Russia’s failure to pay $1.9 million in accrued interest on a dollar bond will trigger payouts potentially worth billions of dollars, a panel of investors determined on Wednesday, as the country teeters on its first major external debt default in over a century, Reuters reports.

Sanctions imposed by western countries and their allies on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, as well as counter measures by Moscow, have all but excluded the country from the global financial system. The lapse last month of a key U.S. licence allowing Russia to make payments put the prospect of the country defaulting back into focus.

A Credit Derivatives Determinations Committee (CDDC) overseeing Europe, whose members are banks and asset managers, said on its website on Wednesday that it voted ‘yes’ to a question on whether a “failure to pay credit event” occurred with respect to Russia.

Citibank was the sole ‘no’ vote, while 12 other members voted ‘yes’.

Russia’s international 2022 bond matured on April 4th and payment of principal and interest due at maturity was not made until May 2nd. During that period, Russia was obligated to continue to pay interest which a holder calculated at $1.9 million.

The CDDC was then asked to determine if Russia’s non-payment constituted a failure to pay that would trigger payouts for insurance against a default, or credit default swaps (CDS).

The committee, whose members also include Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, Elliot Management and PIMCO, agreed that the failure to pay happened on May 19th and that a request to find a resolution was submitted on May 26th. Citi again voted ‘no’.

The committee will meet again on June 6th at 2 p.m. London time (1300 GMT) to continue the process, which could move to set up an auction to determine any CDS payouts.

There are currently $2.54 billion of net notional CDS outstanding in relation to Russia, including $1.68 billion on the country itself and the remainder on the CDX.EM index, according to JPMorgan calculations.

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