Novo Banco Has Four Potential Buyers


But Sale Price Unlikely to Cover Bailout Costs

Wall Street Journal

Novo Banco, the Portuguese bank created out of failed lender Banco Espírito Santo SA in August, has received at least four expressions of interest from potential buyers before a Dec. 31 deadline, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.

Novo Banco, under Chief Executive Eduardo Stock da Cunha, is seeking to finalize a sale by the middle of 2015. Interested parties include Portugal’s Banco BPI SA, Spain’s Banco Santander SA, China’s Fosun International Ltd. and U.S. private-equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC, according to a person close to the sale process.

Santander and BPI this month confirmed that they would submit expressions of interest, while Fosun had previously said it would consider purchasing the bank. No one was immediately available at Apollo to comment.

While Novo Banco wants to fully pay back the €4.9 billion ($6.01 billion) capital injection it received from a bailout fund, analysts consider it unlikely the bank will fetch that much.

A teaser document prepared by BNP Paribas this month said the sale represents “a unique opportunity to acquire the control of a leading financial institution in Portugal with international operations.” Novo Banco, with €72.5 billion in assets, has around an 18% share of Portugal’s banking market, according to the bank, and a presence in nearly two dozen countries globally.

Novo Banco started life on Aug. 3 when the Bank of Portugal used a Portuguese resolution fund to inject €4.9 billion and save the best parts of Banco Espírito Santo. Novo Banco kept the bulk of BES’s branches, deposits and loans, while shedding shareholders’ and junior bondholders’ claims on the bank and its problematic subsidiaries in the U.S., Libya and Angola.

Junior bondholders are now trying to contest the bank split in Portuguese and European Union courts, but the sale of Novo Banco is moving ahead. A €379 million purchase of Novo Banco’s investment bank, Banco Espírito Santo de Investimento SA was agreed by China’s Haitong Securities earlier this month.

Banco Espírito Santo collapsed in August amid a record first-half loss triggered by its exposure to its troubled family-controlled parent company. The company, Espirito Santo International SA, filed for bankruptcy in July after an audit ordered by the Bank of Portugal found irregularities in its accounts. Banco Espírito Santo didn’t only provide loans to Espirito Santo International and its units, but also sold their debt to customers of the bank. Some of that debt was sold to clients through a complex funding scheme that the Bank of Portugal has called fraudulent. The Bank of Portugal and the Portuguese prosecutor’s office are currently conducting separate investigations into the matter.

In addition to the core Portuguese business, the future owner of Novo Banco will take over a set of European units and global operations in countries including Cape Verde, the Cayman Islands, Venezuela and Mozambique. It will also get 9.9% of Angolan lender Banco Economico. However, a New York branch with around $443 million in assets is in the process of being closed, according to the BNP Paribas presentation.

Novo Banco’s main attraction, however, continues to be its domestic businesses. The bank has reported deposits of €25 billion in August, and since then the figure has risen €2 billion following some successful marketing campaigns. Banks with operations in Portugal, including BPI and Santander, would see their client base widen sharply. They would also inherit a credit portfolio of close to €44 billion, of which loans to companies comprise 72%.

While Portugal has been hit hard by the sovereign debt crisis that forced it into a bailout in 2011, its economy is recovering. Nonetheless, the jobless rate remains above 13%, bringing potential credit risks. Novo Banco reported credit at risk of default at close to 14% from the total portfolio.

Meanwhile, the “bad bank” that kept the Banco Espírito Santo name is separately in the process of selling Espirito Santo Bank in Miami, a small business and mortgage lender which also holds the group’s U.S. securities license. Other parts of the Espirito Santo group are also being sold, as many parts of the businesses make their way through court-managed liquidations.

Write to Patricia Kowsmann at and Margot Patrick at

(Fim de citação)

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