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AN Indian cement maker’s recent purchase of Russian coal using yuan involved India’s biggest private lender, HDFC Bank, according to an invoice seen by Reuters and a source, as more details emerge of the kind of trade that could blunt Western sanctions against Moscow.
There is no suggestion that the purchase, the particulars of which have not previously been reported, in any way breaches sanctions imposed on Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine. But the document shows one way in which Russia could continue to sell commodities abroad without settling in US dollars despite restrictions aimed at freezing it out of financial markets.
According to the invoice dated June 5 and a source familiar with the matter, HDFC Bank backed cement maker Ultratech’s purchase of Russian coal from producer and trader SUEK for 172.7mil yuan (US$25.74mil or RM113.9mil).
The letter of credit for the deal was issued by HDFC Bank’s Mumbai suburban branch of Andheri East, according to the invoice.
The dollar is the currency of choice for global trade in raw materials, but some traders say the yuan could be increasingly used to settle payments for supplies from Russia.,
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In the invoice, SUEK requests Ultratech remit the 172.7 million yuan (RM114mil) to SUEK’s account at the Shanghai branch of China Everbright Bank. SUEK lists the Hong Kong branch of international lender HSBC as the correspondent bank.
A correspondent bank acts as a middleman in the transfer of money from one bank to another. Reuters could not determine if a payment had been received by China Everbright or if HSBC or any other bank was involved in a transfer of funds.
HDFC Bank and HSBC declined to comment. Ultratech, SUEK and China Everbright Bank did not respond to requests for comment. It was not clear from the invoice which currencies were used to effect the yuan payment.
The amount listed was quoted in Chinese yuan and Reuters reported last week that Ultratech imported 157,000 tonnes of coal from Switzerland-registered SUEK and agreed to settle the final payment in that currency.
For India, such payment methods could become more common as it seeks to maintain trade ties with Russia for commodities including oil and coal without the risk of contravening Western sanctions.
India has deep political and security ties with Russia and has refrained from condemning the Ukraine war, which Russia says is a “special military operation”. — Reuters