21 January 2018, Sunday, 7:20

Belaruskali asks a deferral of the loan

Russia’s Sberbank in talks with Belaruskali about possibility of refinancing $1-billion loan.

Sberbank of Russia is in talks with Belaruskali about the possibility of refinancing a $1-billion loan owed by the Belarusian potash giant, Sberbank President German Gref told reporters in Moscow on Friday.

“We are considering the potential possibility of changing the loan repayment schedule,” Mr. Gref said. “The Belarusian side has reaffirmed its commitment to all obligations. They are temporarily in a difficult situation now because of the breakup of their alliance with Uralkali. I think the situation will gradually stabilize and they will be able to get back on track with the schedule. We are now in talks with them as to how we can change the schedule of payments.”

While staying in Minsk earlier this month, Mr. Gref noted that the loan might have to be refinanced once again, whereas Belaruskali Director General Valery Kiryyenka insisted in mid-August that his company would fully and promptly meet its obligations.

Sberbank of Russia and the Eurasian Development Bank granted the $1-billion syndicated loan to Belaruskali in December 2011.

The Belarusian government provided 50 percent of the Naftan oil refinery in Navapolatsk as a security for the loan. Sberbank reportedly contributed $900 million and the Eurasian Development Bank $100 million to the loan. Of the amount, $800 million went into Belarus' gold and foreign exchange reserves.

In late October 2012, Sberbank refinanced the loan into another loan issued to Belaruskali for a period of three years, with the Belarusian government guaranteeing repayment.

The first payment of about $100 million on the loan was to be made in September.

In the first seven months of 2013, Belaruskali’s exports reportedly totaled $1,380 million, down 23.5 percent from the same period the previous year. There have been no exports since the beginning of September.

“Buyers have taken a wait-and-see stance [following the collapse of the Belaruskali-Uralkali export alliance] and therefore new contracts are not signed now,” Mr. Kiryyenka, told reporters on August 19. “Why is the market on ice? Because there is no price bottom. Why should they buy when a lower price may be offered tomorrow?”