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Possible new U.S. sanctions on Russia's OFZ market not a serious threat to financial stability -VTB Bank

By Katya Golubkova

Potential new U.S. sanctions on Russia's secondary OFZ treasury bond market are not a 'serious threat' for the country's financial stability as state banks are much bigger holders of the bonds than U.S. investors, the head of state bank VTB said.

Existing U.S. sanctions already ban U.S. investors from buying into new OFZ bonds. Some U.S. lawmakers recently suggested extending the restrictions on the secondary market, amid rising U.S. political tensions with Russia over everything from the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to relations with Ukraine.

"The Russian market, with such players as Sberbank SBER.MM and VTB VTBR.MM, major OFZ holders, is incomparable with the OFZ portfolio held by U.S. investors," VTB CEO Andrey Kostin, a former diplomat, told Reuters.

Foreign investors hold 21% of total OFZ bonds outstanding, or 3.3 trillion roubles ($44 billion), of which U.S. investors account for around a third - less than VTB alone which has 1.75 trillion roubles of OFZs in its portfolio.

($1 = 74.9840 roubles)

(Reporting by Katya Golubkova; Editing by Susan Fenton)