At press time, Russia's second-largest bank, VTB Group, was in the midst of an IPO that had apparently whipped throngs of locals into a financial mania. Ahead of last week's deadline for the sale - extended by popular demand - Russian retail investors had packed the bank's branches, lugging wads of rubles in heavy bags, according to news reports. The plan was to float about 22.5% of the bank's shares, which are currently controlled by the government.

VTB's move into securitization in July of last year sparked far less fanfare, but for people in the industry it was a pivotal event: the first mortgage-backed security from Russia. Led by Barclays Capital and HSBC, the three-tranche deal was sized at $88.3 million. The $72.2 million A tranche was rated A1' by Moody's Investors Service and BBB+' by Fitch Rating, which subsequently raised it to A-'. Helping enhance the A tranche was a liquidity guarantee covering 18 months, provided by the International Finance Corp.

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