Since this summer, Brent crude oil has fallen from above $115 per barrel to around $61.08 a barrel in Asian trade Monday, with many analysts predicting prices will continue to slide. At the same time, the ruble has dropped around 70 percent since the end of June, with the U.S. dollar fetching around 58.2 rubles Friday.
Government debt not a worry
Only around $38 billion of Russia's government debt is denominated in dollars, and of that amount only around $6 billion of interest and principal payments are due in 2015, compared with around $400 billion of foreign-exchange reserves, Wells Fargo noted. With around two-thirds of government debt borrowed in rubles, the central bank can theoretically create enough rubles to pay off those creditors, the bank said.
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Obviously, that creates inflation risks. The cost of Russia's borrowing has climbed recently, with its 10-year ruble-denominated sovereign bond yield around 13.00 percent Friday compared with 8.33 percent at the end of June, according to Reuters data.
Russia's central bank raised its main interest rate by 100 basis points to 10.5 percent on Thursday – the latest in a series of hikes this year as it attempts to rein in inflation and bolster the country's struggling economy, which also faces headwinds from sanctions from the West due to its conflict with Ukraine.
Credit Suisse Private Banking echoed the relatively sanguine view on Russia's sovereign debt risks, adding it expects the country's current account surplus will rise in 2015 on a combination of weaker domestic demand and the ruble's decline. In a note last week, Credit Suisse said it has a positive view on the country's sovereign hard-currency bonds on attractive valuations, but it is more cautious about buying into the local-currency ones.
Corporate debt concerns
Both banks expressed concern over Russian corporate debt.
"Any Russian company or bank that needs to service foreign currency debt would have a more difficult time making foreign currency debt servicing payments if it does not generate revenue that is denominated in foreign currency," Wells Fargo said, noting the ruble's decline also lowers corporate net worth.
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Russian companies owe about $160 billion in intercompany debt to overseas parents and subsidiaries, likely mostly to Western European companies, while Russian banks have around $200 billion of external debt and other sectors have around $300 billion, Wells Fargo said.