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A troika of Russian banks

SBS-Agro: $250 million, three-year maturity

Alfa-Russia Finance: $175 million, three-year maturity

Unexim Finance: $200 million, three-year maturity

If you wanted exposure to Russian debt a year ago, there were only two options: government debt in roubles (GKOs), or dollar-denominated government paper, known as MinFin bonds. If you were bullish, they were an excellent bet: at the time of the presidential election in 1996 MinFins were trading at 1,000 basis points over US treasuries; a year on they've tightened to about 300bp over.

Back then, it looked as if these would remain the only options. The Russian government was still in debt negotiations with the London and Paris clubs; talks with western investment banks about issuing a Eurobond had dragged on for six months with little progress; and the IMF was continually cancelling credits.

Since then, however, Russia has been accepted as a lender in the debtors' clubs, the government has issued three successful Eurobonds, and several other borrowers have tapped the international capital market. Whether investors still regard Russia as an emerging market is even up for debate. In their hunt for higher yields, many have moved on to Ukraine, Moldova and Bulgaria, and have placed Russia in their crossover portfolio.

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