Belarus Repays Obligations in Foreign Currency Ahead of Schedule
According to a source in the state administration, JSC “Belaruskali\" will make an early repayment of the loan to Savings Bank of Russia in the amount of USD 1 billion. On November 18, 2011 in Minsk, the Savings Bank of Russia and the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) signed an agreement on the provision of a syndicated loan for \"Belaruskali\" of USD 1 billion total. The share of the Savings Bank amounts to USD 900 million.
The total sum of the loan was transferred to the account of \"Belaruskali\" in JSC \"BPS-Savings.\" After that, the sum of the loan equaling USD 800 million was added to Belarus’ gold and foreign currency reserves.
In March 2012, the Group of the Savings Bank of Russia suggested the Belarusian government to refinance the credit. However, the terms of refinancing did not satisfy the Belarusian side due to a high interest rate on the loan.
The National Bank, in its turn, fulfilled the obligations to the Belarusian banks worth more than USD 400 million within the frameworks of transactions with deposits in April ahead of schedule.
The main donor to the Belarusian National Bank was the Belvnesheconombank to whom the NBB has fully paid off its debt.
For reference. As of April 1, 2012, the National Bank’s obligations in foreign currency to the banking sector amounted to USD 4, 51 billion.
In the situation when the demand for ruble loans is declining (due to the high interest rates), it is more profitable for the Belarusian banks to close the transaction on the exchange deposits with the central bank, i.e. to receive foreign currency back, by paying the National Bank its ruble equivalent. Consequently, the released foreign currency might be used to provide new lending to enterprises. It is now prohibited by law to provide loans in foreign currency to residents of Belarus.
However, to revitalize the ruble lending the National Bank continues to gradually reduce the refinancing rate. So, from May 16, 2012 the refinancing rate is to be reduced by 2 percentage points to 34% per annum. The upper limit of interest rates on liquidity support operations of the banking system is to be decreased from 60% to 55%. The refinancing rate on operations on the withdrawal of liquidity is to be reduced from 23% to 20% per annum. In fact, the National Bank is now a market maker in the country’s money market. It regulates the basic interest rates of financial market operations by using standard short-term withdrawal of ruble liquidity (overnight deposits, short-term bonds). So, as of May 11, the National Bank has withdrawn from the banking system 8.24 trillion rub., which is about USD 1, 019 billion. This is a significant number, even according to the Belarusian standards. The National Bank is forced to withdraw the excessive short-term ruble liquidity from the banking sector in order to reduce pressure on the exchange rate of Belarusian ruble on the domestic foreign exchange market.
It should be emphasized that the repayment of the country and Central Bank’s obligations in foreign currency ahead of schedule will facilitate the debt burden of servicing the foreign debt nominated in foreign currency. Moreover, some improvement in terms of raising funds in international financial markets for the residents of Belarus might be expected.
It can also be added that as political tensions between Belarus and the EU reduce, there is a slight decrease in yield on Belarus’ two Eurobond issues. According to Bloomberg, May 11, 2012 the first issue of Belarus’ Eurobond maturing August 3, 2015, traded at a yield of 10.487% (bid), and 9.951% (ask), the second issue maturing January 26, 2018 - 10.38% (bid), and 10.119% (ask). If the yields on sovereign bonds fall below 9%, the Belarusian government may start preparing the placement of new bond issues.
According to Decree No. 221 of June 23rd, 2017, deadlines for the completion of foreign trade operations have been extended from 90 to 180 days for exports and from 60 to 90 days for imports. Delayed payments entailed a fine up to 2% of the transaction cost for each day of the delay, but could not exceed the total cost of the transaction. Most companies, when working with new counterparties, require a deferred payment for a period of three to six months. Due to the new regulation, violations are likely to reduce in number, so as the fines. Trade enterprises are likely to expand the assortment list due to the supply of new products in small lots, and the assortment list of exported Belarusian goods could expand, too. The new terms for completing foreign trade transactions would enable medium and small companies on the foreign trade market, exporters and importers are likely to grow in number and the geography of export-import operations could expand.