Russia May Raise 2012 Foreign Debt Cap by $8.1 Billion

(Corrects revenue figure in final paragraph in story published yesterday.)

Russia’s Finance Ministry is asking lawmakers to raise the limit on outstanding foreign debt by $8.1 billion after selling Eurobonds in the biggest emerging-market sovereign offering since 2009.

Foreign debt can’t exceed $56.5 billion on Jan. 1, 2013, from the $48.4 billion cap set in the current plan, according to proposed changes to the 2012 budget, posted on the Moscow-based ministry’s website. The domestic debt limit would fall to 5.46 trillion rubles ($186.4 billion) from 6.33 trillion rubles.

Russia, which gets about half its revenue from oil and gas, is benefiting from higher energy prices as tensions in the Middle East escalate, stoking concern over possible supply disruptions. Since the budget may be almost balanced, the strategy of selling more costly ruble-denominated bonds to build up the Reserve Fund “doesn’t make much sense,” said Clemens Grafe, chief economist at Goldman Sachs in Moscow.

“What they’re trying to do is say: look, rather than going down that route, if we want to rebuild the oil fund, then let’s do it with foreign borrowing,” Grafe said today in a phone interview. “Legally, this would allow them to do that.”

Gross domestic product may grow to 60.6 trillion rubles in 2012, compared with an earlier estimate of 58.7 trillion rubles, the ministry said. The budget deficit may be 0.1 percent of GDP rather than an initially planned 1.5 percent, according to draft amendments.

The ministry projects revenue will be 12.68 trillion rubles this year, 7.6 percent higher than its earlier target, according to the bill. Spending may be 0.7 percent more than planned at 12.75 trillion rubles.

To contact the reporter on this story: Scott Rose in Moscow at rrose10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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