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The Russians are here -­ at last

Tight-lipped Russian officials eventually warmed to their task at roadshows worldwide. It was Russia's return to the international capital markets, its first sovereign issue since Tsarist days. For the bankers involved in the $1 billion deal it must often have seemed like trying to resurrect the mammoth. Peter Lee reports on a complicated birth

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Even the signing ceremony was unusual in this most unusual of deals. Elated by having successfully achieved the largest-ever debut Eurobond for a sovereign credit ­ a $1 billion five-year issue ­ Russian officials in their enthusiam insisted on organizing and paying for the celebrations. This was a thank you, they said, to the international banks, which could hardly be said to have done badly out of the deal and which might normally have been expected to foot the bill for the pleasantries.

Along with representatives from the lead banks that had worked closest on the deal there were senior bankers from many of the syndicate firms. They arrived from around the world, including a nonplussed representative from a Japanese house who spoke neither English nor Russian. For good measure the Russians also threw open the festivities at the Kremlin to most of the foreign bankers they knew in Moscow.

Not quite the average signing ceremony. Then again, given that the November 1996 celebrations marked Russia's return to the international capital markets for the first time since the October 1917 revolution, the hosts could perhaps be excused for not knowing the form for these occasions.

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