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Sanctions on Russia’s debt entangle default insurance payouts

By Davide Barbuscia and Karin Strohecker

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Investors hit by Russia’s debt default may have to settle some of their positions privately if the U.S. Treasury does not green-light an auction that would allow billions of dollars of insurance to be paid out.

Russia last month defaulted on its international bonds for the first time in decades under the pressure of Western sanctions. While investors have already written down a large part of their debt holdings, an outstanding question is how they can recoup some of those losses through credit default swaps (CDS) – an insurance against defaults. A large chunk of those CDS are held by U.S. bond giant PIMCO.

“If this is not resolved for months and months, maybe there is an opportunity to settle in a private way,” said Yerlan Syzdykov, global head of emerging markets and co-head of emerging markets fixed income at Amundi, who owns both Russia bonds and CDS.

An auction would normally be held to determine the price of the underlying bonds, but the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) last month banned U.S. investors from buying any Russian securities in secondary markets. That’s clouded the outlook for

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