Bond investors eager for return of Russian companies to scarcity-plagued market
By Sujata Rao
LONDON Dec 8 (Reuters) - Russian companies planning a return to global bond markets in 2016 after a long absence may expect an eager welcome from fund managers who are starved of new emerging debt issues and reckon such deals will remain scarce.
A host of companies such as Lukoil, Aeroflot and Sistema are meeting investors in London on Tuesday, led by the Moscow Exchange and Alexei Kudrin, the influential former finance minister who is credited with building up Russia's hefty rainy day savings funds.
So far this year, Russian firms have raised less than $3 billion in debt overseas, a far cry from the $60 billion or so they issued annually before 2014. Bank of America Merrill Lynch expects it to pick up next year, but still be a comparatively light $10 billion to $15 billion.
The meagre tally is mainly down to Western sanctions that bar investors from buying new securities from borrowers seen linked to Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis.
Economic recession and low global oil prices also mean that Russian firms need less money for expansion. Oil's continued fall this week after OPEC nations failed to agree a production ceiling on Friday suggests that a recovery may be some way off.
But the few non-sanctioned Russian companies that have ventured back into the debt market, such as Norilsk Nickel and Gazprom back in October, saw their bonds snapped up. Steel firm Evraz, said to be planning a $500 million deal soon, should see good demand, investors say.
"The market is open for the Russians," said Marcelo Assalin, head of emerging debt at NN Investment Partners. "There is money on the sidelines looking for good opportunities. If solid Russian companies come to market they will find buyers."
He said signs of better relations between Russia and the West, finding common cause against Islamic State fighters in Syria, meant investors were less worried than last year about the risk of sanctions being extended. Continuación...