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Largest Russian loan since 1998 for Gazprom

Not satisfied with issuing Russia's first investment grade bond and its first securitization, Gazprom has closed a $1.1 billion loan ? the largest since Russia's 1998 financial crisis.

The six-year deal is fully underwritten by ABN Amro and secured against export receivables from a long-term gas sales contract to the Czech Republic.

The success of the loan, which received $2.5 billion in offers from 44 banks in syndication, shows that the success of Gazprom's $1.25 billion securitization in July was not wholly down to the intricate and innovative structure of that issue.

Much of Gazprom's popularity seems to be due, rather, to its state-owned status. Uncertainty over the future of Yukos, the oil company under investigation by the Russian government, has made lenders jittery over deals with other so-called oligarchs in Russia. Société Générale and ING pulled out of a loan to oil company TNK-BP recently, as did HSBC from a loan to Norilsk Nickel.

The Gazprom loan is the largest fully underwritten syndicated facility transacted on a sole basis for a Russian company since 1998. The size of the offers in syndication also makes it the largest syndicate ever for a Russian loan.

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