Sberbank and VTB line up for OFZ bonds to bolster Russian budget

MOSCOW, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Russia’s largest state-run lenders, Sberbank and VTB, will help the finance ministry to plug holes in the state budget this year by buying its OFZ treasury bonds, the banks said on Tuesday.

Running out of options to bolster public finances, Russia more than doubled domestic borrowing in 2020. The state raised about $72 billion from its OFZ bonds, largely purchased by the country’s biggest banks.

“We are ready to buy,” Sberbank CEO German Gref said of the OFZ bonds the finance ministry plans to use this year to raise the rouble equivalent of $1 billion a week.

“We and VTB will easily cover their needs,” Gref said, adding that the 2021 state borrowing plan did not look huge.

VTB is also ready to step up buying of OFZ bonds, Interfax news agency quoted bank boss Andrei Kostin as saying on Tuesday.

OFZ bonds are also popular among foreign investors for their lucrative yields, though the share of non-residents among OFZ holders has declined as Russia has increased state debt issuance. ($1 = 73.7700 roubles) (Reporting by Tanya Voronova Writing by Andrey Ostroukh Editing by David Goodman)