The Russians Offer Debt Swaps

Russian President Boris Yeltsin dangled a tantalizing prospect before Western investors at the Munich economic summit: Russia would be willing to entertain debt-for-equity swaps for its $20 billion in bank debt. In a closed session with President Bush and other Group of Seven leaders, Yeltsin rattled off a long list of assets that investors could acquire by assuming part of Russia's debt--including a stake in its vast oil and gas reserves. U.S. officials described the offer as "very significant." Not only would the swaps help Western banks, but they would bring in foreign investment and strengthen Russia's move toward property rights.