Sberbank loan will help to preserve gold reserves of Belarus after repayment of Eurobonds
Belaruskali has raised EUR 550 million and spent it on Finance Ministry bonds. This transaction was necessary for timely repayment of Eurobonds worth USD 1 billion. As a result, Belarus’ gold reserves have been preserved thereby ensuring stability on the currency market during the election period.
On July 30th, 2015, Belaruskali announced it had managed to raise a EUR 550 million loan for five years.
On July 27th and 28th, 2015, the Belarusian Currency and Stock Exchange listed 156 and 157 bond issues of the Finance Ministry worth EUR 550 million, which were bought by an enterprise residing in Belarus. The interest rate on these bonds with a five years maturity period was 6 months Libor + 6.6%. The only possible buyer of these bonds could be Belaruskali, which has obtained a syndicated loan from the Russian Savings Bank and Sberbank Europe AG for the same amount and on the same terms.
The new loan is linked with the need to repay the debut issue of five-year bonds issued on August 3rd, 2010. On July 28th, 2015 the Finance Ministry paid the coupon yield and USD 1 billion to repay the debut issue of Eurobonds. USD 760 million state loan from Russia was listed in Russian roubles and therefore could not be used promptly to repay due amounts for Eurobonds. As of July 1st, 2015 Belarus’ gold reserves totalled USD 4.6 billion, and reducing it by USD 1 billion could have a very negative impact on the domestic foreign exchange market and boost currency demand by the population and enterprises. The National Bank has rejected this scenario as highly undesirable.
Currently, Belarus is unable to raise funding at such interest rates on the international market. It would be equally impossible to raise the needed amount on the domestic market. One of the forms of disguised support for Belarus by Russia is when Russian state banks provide commercial loans to Belarusian state companies. Belarus, in turn, has provided state guarantees for the repayment of problem commercial loans issued to Belarusian industrial giants by Russian BPS-Sberbank. As a result, Belarus’ gold reserves have been preserved at the same level and people’s devaluation expectations have reduced, thus pre-empting negative consequences in the pre-election period. In addition, Russia has increased her share in Belarus’ public debt and demonstrated willingness to provide financial support for Belarus, even amid expansion of sanctions.
Summing up what has been said, Russia, in a critical moment for Belarus has once again provided financial support in order to preserve stability on the Belarusian currency market and, what is important, not direct support but through Belaruskali. Amid the expansion of sectoral sanctions against Russia, Belarus might be able to receive Russia’s financial assistance in the future, however, its size would be adjusted downwards and would imply conditionality.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.