Belarusian government bond prices fell on Monday as the EU prepared to tighten sanctions against the president Alexander Lukashenko‘s regime for his Intercept on a Ryanair flight to arrest a dissident.
The country’s dollar debt fell about 5 percent as investors responded to reports that the new restrictions could include a ban on “Venezuela” -type trading in Belarusian securities that could prevent bondholders from leaving their positions .
“Sanctions that mean you cannot trade the bonds in the secondary market would be beyond anything we have seen against Russia so far,” said Viktor Szabo, portfolio manager at Aberdeen Standard Investments. “That would basically make them inviolable.”
The US has banned trade in Venezuelan bonds since 2017, practically blocking the market for many foreign investors.
A Belarusian bond with a maturity of 2031, sold in June last year ahead of a competitive election that Lukashenko brutally cracked down on widespread protests, fell nearly 5 cents to 87.7 cents a dollar. Investors said there was hardly any actual trading, with brokers citing indicative prices with even steeper declines of 5-6 percent.
USD 3.6 billion in Belarusian dollar bonds, which traded above face value in February, fell after Belarusian authorities forced the plane to land last month, sparking international outrage. Last week, the EU countries tentatively agreed on far-reaching sanctions against the Belarusian financial, oil and potash sectors in order to significantly increase the pressure on the authoritarian Lukashenko government.
The package is expected to be finalized by finance ministers on Monday before being approved at an EU summit on Thursday.
“The assumption is that they will sanction primary issues following the Russian example,” said Timothy Ash of BlueBay Asset Management, referring to a move by the US in April to ban American investors from buying new Russian government bonds. “The possible ban on trading in securities is unusual. Then it’s Venezuelan. People won’t want to be tied to holding these bonds. ”
Ash added that actions against Belarusian industries such as the large potash sector could “cripple the economy” and undermine the government’s creditworthiness.