Russia

Russia’s $1.6 trillion economy is going to be dealt another blow when a moratorium is lifted on companies filing for bankruptcy, Bloomberg News reported. The measure, which was a condition of government pandemic support, helped protect healthy businesses from creditors but left those that won’t survive limping along as zombies. It expires in October. “It’s like a life-support machine for companies -- if there isn’t treatment, they will just die when it’s switched off,” said Yuriy Khalimovsky, a director at Deloitte’s legal service in St. Petersburg.

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Russia’s retail sales plunged the most since records began in the latest sign that the government’s cautious stimulus program has done little to soften the economic blow from the coronavirus lockdown, Bloomberg News reported. Retail sales fell 23% in April, compared with the same period a year ago, Russia’s statistics agency said on Tuesday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey had forecast an 18% drop.

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A decision on the future of the Elga coal project, one of the world’s largest coking coal deposits, is likely in the first quarter of 2020, the regional governor said in an interview, Reuters reported. Expansion of the mine, first developed by Russian steel and coal producer Mechel, has stalled in recent years as the project in the remote Yakutia region of Russia’s Far East demands significant investment to reach its annual operating capacity of 30 million tonnes.

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A judge in London has ordered the former owners of Russia’s Trust Bank and their wives to pay the country’s central bank $900m to compensate for their role in an offshore scheme that led to its collapse, the Financial Times reported. Mr Justice Bryan, a judge in the English High Court, ruled on Thursday that Ilya Yurov, Sergei Belyaev, and Nikolai Fetisov had conspired to “evade banking standards” to falsify Trust’s accounts and use the bank’s 1.5m retail deposit base to help fund companies where they were the ultimate beneficiaries.

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Russia’s VTB Capital has sued Mozambique to recover its share of defaulted debts at the heart of the impoverished African nation’s $2bn “tuna bond” scandal, the Financial Times reported. State-owned VTB is demanding repayment of a $535m loan, according to a lawsuit that it filed against the Mozambican government in London. In 2013 and 2014 Mozambique borrowed $1.4bn from VTB and Credit Suisse tied to maritime security projects, alongside a $850m bond it sold to investors for the financing of a tuna-fishing fleet.

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Russian state lender VTB has filed a lawsuit in Britain’s High Court against a Mozambican government company it lent hefty sums to as part of a project now at the center of a $2 billion debt scandal, according to an online court filing, Reuters reported. The filing, dated Dec. 23, names as defendants the Mozambique state and Mozambique Asset Management, which took a $535 million loan from VTB as part of a costly project that U.S. authorities say was an elaborate front for a bribery and kickback scheme.

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A Russian court in the city of Tyumen has declared the bankruptcy of Russia’s Antipinsky refinery, Interfax news agency reported on Monday, Reuters reported. The refinery, which has a capacity of 9 million tonnes per year, filed for bankruptcy in May after halting operations on several occasions due to a lack of funds to pay for crude oil deliveries. Read more

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An investment holding company linked to Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg pledged to invest “as much money as necessary” in Schmolz + Bickenbach AG to avert a restructuring of the ailing Swiss steelmaker’s $800 million debt pile, Bloomberg News reported. Liwet Holding AG, which holds a 26.9% stake in Schmolz, said in a statement Sunday that the pledge is conditional on there being no change in control of the company.

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Bribe allegations leveled in court against a VTB Group executive may complicate the Russian state-owned bank’s attempts to recoup a $535 million loan that’s part of a major debt scandal in Mozambique, Bloomberg News reported. A New York court heard testimony last month that the VTB executive in charge of the deal, Makram Abboud, took $2 million in kickbacks. The bank denies the allegations, made by a former Credit Suisse Group AG banker at a criminal trial in which VTB isn’t a party, and its employee hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing.

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Sberbank and the International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA) have settled a dispute over funds owed to Russia’s largest bank by IBA, an Azeri and Sberbank officials said on Wednesday, Reuters reported. In 2017, state-run IBA proposed a plan to restructure $3.3 billion of its debt and said in July it had received approval from creditors holding 93.9% of the debt involved. As part of the restructuring, which was under Azeri law, IBA obtained a moratorium from a London court preventing creditors from taking action against it without court permission.

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