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对俄发债可能长期困扰乌克兰经济

Stephen Gandel 2014年03月17日

去年12月,俄罗斯向乌克兰贷款30亿美元。但俄罗斯不是直接把钱交到乌克兰手里,而是让它发行了价值30亿美元的欧元计价债券,再买下这批债券,同时还附加了一个不同寻常的要求。分析人士认为,这笔“高明的”债券交易未来将加剧这两个国家之间谈判时的紧张气氛。

    就在乌克兰政府倒台几个月前,俄罗斯和乌方达成了贷款协议,这笔交易甚至会让结构性金融领域的王牌交易人都艳羡不已。一位主权债务专家对这笔交易的评价是“高明”。但它有可能反过来给乌克兰经济带来长期的困扰。

    去年12月份,俄罗斯向乌克兰贷款30亿美元。这是俄罗斯援乌计划的一部分,而整个援助计划的预期规模为150亿美元。不过,俄方没有直接把资金交到乌克兰手里,而是让乌克兰政府发行了价值30亿美元的欧元计价债券,随后将这批债券悉数买下。

    这笔交易似乎简单明了。乌克兰的欧洲债券余额已经达到数十亿美元。因此,和制定新的贷款协议相比,继续发债看起来可能更容易。此外,由于国内政局动荡愈演愈烈,乌克兰的其他欧洲债券已经受到了不利影响,向俄罗斯发债则有望提高这些债券的价格。

    然而,这笔拐弯抹角的贷款给予俄罗斯的优势要比乍看上去多。而这正是它的奇妙之处。

    原来,俄罗斯没有让乌克兰像以前那样简单地发债。相反,俄方在乌克兰发行这批债券时提出了一个条件。作为本次债券交易的一部分,乌克兰必须保证把自己的债务/GDP比例保持在60%以下。如果超过这个水平,俄罗斯就有权要求乌方立即全额还款。

    这种限定条件在政府债券领域并不常见。主权债券专家米图·古拉蒂表示,他从未见过哪只政府债券带有类似的债务/GDP比例条款。大多数主权债券的门槛都很低。

    很难证明这个条款是事先计划好的,但它给了俄罗斯很大的经济影响力。发债时乌克兰的债务/GDP比例接近40%。但鉴于俄罗斯可能想让克里米亚脱离乌克兰,从而把当地的经济活动从乌克兰抽离出来;再加上政局不稳造成经济增长放缓,乌克兰接下来公布的一、两个债务/GDP数字就可能达到百分之六十多,甚至更高。

    这就意味着俄罗斯可以把这笔钱要回来,同时让乌克兰在努力重建的过程中遇到更大的经济困难。

    如果这只是一笔贷款,乌克兰就完全可以对弗拉基米尔·普京说:“嘿,你刚刚侵略了我们。欠债一笔勾销。我们不还了。”然而,由于这是一笔债券交易,情况就没那么简单了。要让这批欧洲债券作废,乌克兰就得说,俄罗斯知道自己同意为乌前政府提供的资金中,至少会有一部分被腐败的政府首脑中饱私囊。乌克兰人当然相信这一点,但这在国际法庭上也许很难得到证实。

    乌克兰的其他欧洲债券中,有许多都和俄罗斯手中的这批债券相似。因此,不赎回俄方持有的债券将对所有乌克兰债券产生更大的影响,导致它们的价格下跌,利率上升。此外,俄罗斯还可以在市场上将这批债券脱手——由于带有特殊条款,俄方很可能实现溢价转让。法庭裁定这批债券作废的可能性也许会因此而下降;考虑到这批债券可能落入私人投资者手中,特别是非俄罗斯人,乌克兰也可能不再那么想让它作废。

    说到这里,美国和欧洲有可能慷慨地为乌克兰提供贷款担保,而且也已经承诺提供援助。如果俄罗斯要求还债,美国和欧洲的援助应该有助于解决乌克兰的短期债务问题。但实际情况很可能不是这样,原因是这批债券进一步提高了俄罗斯的影响力,也成为乌克兰坐下来谈判的又一条理由。

    当然,乌克兰仍有可能说自己就是不会还债,而且还什么事都没有。和华尔街的惯例相比,这次不寻常的发债可能反其道而行之。在华尔街,大多数债券持有人都不愿意用债权换股权。而在这里,盼望重建昔日帝国的邻邦也许更愿意这样做。(财富中文网)

    译者:Charlie

    

    Just months before the toppling of its government, Russia cut a loan deal with Ukraine that would make even an ace structured finance dealmaker envious. One expert on sovereign debt has called the transaction "clever." And the deal could come back to haunt Ukraine's economy.

    Back in December, Russia lent Ukraine $3 billion as part of an assistance package that was supposed to reach $15 billion. But Russia didn't just hand over money directly to Ukraine. Instead, Russian had the Ukrainian government issue $3 billion in bonds. The bonds were denominated in euros. And then Russia bought all of the bonds.

    That may have seemed like a straightforward way to do the deal. Ukraine already had billions of eurobonds outstanding. So issuing more may have appeared easier than writing up a new loan agreement. Plus, the deal would give a lift to the prices of Ukraine's other eurobonds, which were already suffering from the growing political turmoil in the country.

    But the roundabout loan deal had more advantages for Russia than it first appeared. Here's where things get interesting.

    It turns out that Russia didn't just have Ukraine do a straight debt offering like the ones it had done before. Instead, Russia wrote into the new bond offering a provision. As part of the bond deal, Ukraine had to promise that it would keep its debt-to-GDP level below 60%. If it rose above that level, Russia had the right to demand the bonds be repaid immediately in full.

    That kind of qualification in government bond deals is unusual. Mitu Gulati, a sovereign bond expert, says he has never seen a government bond with a similar debt-to-GDP provision. Most sovereign debt is "covenant-lite."

    It would be hard to prove this was premeditated, but including that provision gives Russia a lot of economic leverage. At the time, Ukraine's debt-to-GDP was near 40%. But with Russian looking likely to hive off Crimea, and taking that portion of the Ukraine's economic activity with it, along with the slowdown the political unrest has caused, it's likely that by the next reading or two Ukraine's debt will be in the 60% range or beyond it.

    That means Russia can ask for its money back, and at the same time add more economic hardship to Ukraine as it struggles to rebuild.

    If this was a straight loan, Ukraine could just say to Vladimir Putin, "Hey you just invaded us. Debt's off. We're not paying." But since it's a bond deal, it won't be that easy. To invalidate the eurobond debt, Ukraine has to argue that Russia knew that part of the money it agreed to give to Ukraine's past government was at least in part going to line the pockets of a corrupt ruler. The Ukrainians certainly believe that, but that might be hard to prove to an international court.

    There are a lot of other Ukrainian eurobonds out there that look similar to the ones Russia is holding, so not paying the ones Russia is holding will have larger implications for all of Ukraine's debt, causing prices to fall and interest rates to rise. What's more, Russia could sell its bonds to the market, likely at a premium because of the special provision. That may make a court less likely to invalidate the debt, and Ukraine less willing to do so, if it is held by a private investor, especially a non-Russian one.

    That being said, the United States and Europe will likely offer generous loan guarantees and have already pledged aid to Ukraine. That should help it with its near-term debt problems should Russia call its debt. And it probably won't, given that the debt offers Russia another piece of leverage, and another reason for Ukraine to negotiate.

    Of course, there is still a chance that Ukraine would just say it's not paying the debt, and for it all to work out okay. The unusual debt deal probably works opposite from what you would expect on Wall Street. Most bond holders don't want to swap their debt for equity. Neighboring nations looking to rebuild old empires may be more willing to make that trade.

    

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