Friday, January 16, 2015

16/1/2015: Moody's Get Double Moody on Russia

As I predicted at a briefing earlier today, Moody's downgraded Russia's sovereign debt (expect downgrades of banks and corporates to follow in due course). This was inevitable given the outlook for growth 'dropped down' on us by the agency in their note on Armenia (see here).

Full release on downgrade is here:

The point is - if you believe Moody's outlook for the risks faced by the economy - you should expect full, open (as opposed to partial and 'voluntary') capital controls and debt repayments holidays (for corporate and banks' debts for entities directly covered by sanctions) before the end of the year.

And, you should still expect a good 75%+ chance of a further downgrade upon the review as Moody's struggle to push ahead with projecting a more 'robust ratings' stance to the markets.

Even the best case scenario is for another downgrade and 12-18 months window of no positive reviews.

The impact of these downgrades is narrow, however. Russian Government is unlikely to become heavily dependent on new debt issuance and thus is relatively well insulated against the fall out from the secondary bond market yields spikes. Russian banks can withstand paper losses on sovereign bonds they hold. At any rate they have much greater headaches than these - if oil prices follow Moody's chartered course, who cares what sovereign ratings are assigned. The impact of sovereign ratings and yields on private debt issuance is a bit more painful, as it will hit those entities issuing new debt in dim sum markets, but again, the overall impact is secondary to the bigger issues of sanctions and the freezing of the debt markets for Russian entities.

On the other hand, were the downgrades and markets reaction to push Russians over the line into direct capital controls and suspension of debt redemptions and servicing for entities affected by the sanctions, the impact on Western debt holders will be painful. And the sovereign deficits and debt positions will be fully covered by sovereign reserves.

So the more real the Moody's risks prognosis becomes, the more pain will be exported from Russia our way.

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