February 4, 2023

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Russia Fails to Meet Bond Obligations, Triggering Swaps Payout

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(Bloomberg) — Russia was judged to have breached the terms on a bond after missing a $1.9 million interest payment and triggering an insurance payout potentially worth billions of dollars.

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The Credit Derivatives Determinations Committee said a “failure-to-pay” event occurred on credit-default swaps because Russia didn’t include the additional interest in a late bond payment made at the start of last month.

The trigger is a boon for those that entered into a popular trade pitched by banks in the weeks following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine — the so-called basis trade where investors buy both the bonds and credit default swaps. The debt in question has already matured, so holders stand to be paid twice — first on the notes themselves and again on the insurance.

Pimco Fund Added to Russia Swap Exposure in Weeks Before War

The ruling comes as Russia struggles to stay current on its foreign debt payments amid sweeping sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine.

While a comparatively small amount, the missed interest will trigger all of Russia’s outstanding credit default swaps, with the final amount likely to be set at auction. Credit-default swaps covered a net $1.5 billion of Russian debt in total as of the end of last month, according to the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. That compares with $3.2 billion at the end of April.

At the same time, a failure to pay $1.9 million isn’t sufficient to trigger a cross-default across other instruments. The minimum threshold is an amount of at least $75 million, according to documents for other Russian eurobonds and reviewed by Bloomberg.

Russian Bond Arbitrage Is Minting Near-Guaranteed Profits

After the invasion, investors piled into Russia’s credit default swaps, while also buying the beaten-down government or corporate debt the swaps are tied to. In normal times, the economics of such a transaction don’t make much sense. The cost of the debt and the hedges move…

2022-06-01 12:39:55

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