Posts Tagged ‘Goldman Sachs’

Inside Goldman Sachs’s Loan to Banco Espírito Santo

Segunda-feira, Janeiro 19th, 2015


Deal Resulted From Effort by Senior Goldman Officials to Win Business With Portuguese Company


The Wall Street Journal

When Goldman Sachs Group Inc. arranged an $835 million loan to Banco Espírito Santo SA last summer, it was the result of a concerted, monthslong effort by senior Goldman officials to win business with the large Portuguese company, according to people familiar with the matter.

Today, Goldman’s embrace of Espírito Santo has come back to haunt the Wall Street giant. Weeks after Goldman arranged the loan, Banco Espírito Santo collapsed amid allegations of fraud. Goldman now is in an unusual public fight with Portugal’s central bank, which bailed out Espírito Santo, over whether the loan should be fully repaid. Anticipated losses linked to the loan took a bite out of Goldman’salready weak fourth-quarter results, the firm’s executives said last week.

And the Goldman loan is under review by Portuguese regulators, which are trying to untangle the web of financial arrangements surrounding Banco Espírito Santo at the time of its implosion, a person familiar with the inquiry said.

The situation highlights a series of missteps by the Wall Street bank.

The loan was approved by at least three Goldman committees, which are composed of senior bank executives and are designed to rigorously assess transactions for their credit risk and their potential to harm the bank’s reputation, according to people familiar with the matter. And the Bank of Portugal moved the loan toward the back of the line for repayment because Goldman last summer briefly amassed more than 2% of Banco Espírito Santo shares.


Goldman’s involvement in the Espírito Santo saga, which The Wall Street Journal first reported in September, got under way last spring—just as the wheels were starting to come off the family-controlled business empire.

Banco Espírito Santo was looking for help in paying for a loan it had promised to Venezuela’s state oil company.

Jose Luis Arnaut, a former Portuguese government minister who Goldman had just appointed to its prestigious international-advisory board, contacted Banco Espírito Santo Chief Executive Ricardo Salgado, according to a person familiar with the approach. Mr. Arnaut offered Goldman’s help in raising money, this person said.

A Goldman partner in London, Antonio Esteves, helped pull together a team in Goldman’s securities and financing divisions to create a complicated structure to arrange the loan, say people familiar with the deal. Mr. Esteves, a Portuguese native, was known inside Goldman as the salesman with the strongest connections to Iberian banks and state-owned companies, they said.

Officials at Goldman Sachs hoped the Espírito Santo deal would pave the way for future business with the Portuguese group, people familiar with the relationship said.ASSOCIATED PRESS

Goldman and Espírito Santo eventually settled on the creation of a company, Oak Finance Luxembourg SA, to raise $835 million for Espírito Santo from Goldman and outside investors. Goldman Sachs International co-heads in London, Michael Sherwoodand Richard Gnodde, were briefed on the large transaction, according to a person familiar with it.

Oak Finance’s purpose—providing vital funding for a project aimed at increasing Venezuela’s refined-oil output—also checked off a box for Goldman as it tried to expand its relationship with the Venezuelan government, people familiar with the matter said.

Before the money was raised, Espírito Santo’s problems started intensifying. Its parent company was struggling to repay billions of euros to its creditors, including the bank and its clients. Facing potential losses, the bank was having trouble raising money from traditional market sources.

But Goldman remained enthusiastic about both the deal and Espírito Santo’s prospects. In late June, barely a month before the bank’s collapse, Mr. Arnaut told a Portuguese radio station that “BES is a profoundly stable bank.” He added that Mr. Salgado, who had announced plans to resign, “was leaving a robust bank with capital and credibility.”

Messrs. Arnaut and Esteves didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Funds from the $835 million loan were released on July 3, providing the bank with vital financial help.

Goldman officials hoped the Oak Finance deal would pave the way for future business with Espírito Santo, people familiar with the relationship said. Following Mr. Salgado’s departure, Mr. Esteves and other Goldman’s bankers unsuccessfully sought work advising Espírito Santo on ways to stay afloat, these said.

Goldman, meanwhile, was buying Banco Espírito Santo shares. Regulatory filings show Goldman amassed 2.27% of the bank’s shares as of July 15. It looked like a vote of confidence in the Portuguese bank, whose shares rallied 20% on July 23, the day the holdings were disclosed.

When Banco Espírito Santo was bailed out and broken up in early August, Goldman wrote to the Bank of Portugal to confirm that the Oak Finance debts would be transferred to the surviving part of the bank, known as Novo Banco, where the loan stood a good chance of repayment. A Goldman spokeswoman said the central bank provided those assurances. A Bank of Portugal spokesman denied that.

Goldman said it had managed to sell some of its exposure to the Oak Finance loan to investors, including pension funds.

On Dec. 23, Novo Banco made a surprise announcement: The Bank of Portugal had informed it that Oak Finance would remain in the “bad bank” that the central bank is winding down, virtually guaranteeing the loan won’t be fully repaid. The reason: A Portuguese law passed in August said that anyone owning more than 2% of a bailed-out bank’s shares must go to the back of the line for any debt repayments. Goldman’s 2.27% shareholding in July triggered that provision retroactively, the Bank of Portugal concluded.

The decision stunned Goldman executives, who learned of it only when they read it in the Portuguese media on Christmas Eve, according to a person familiar with the matter. Goldman disputed the Bank of Portugal’s legal interpretation, noting that it was buying the shares for clients, not for the bank’s own account. In a statement, Goldman accused the Bank of Portugal of breaking its word and warned that the decision would hurt the pension funds that bought Oak Finance debt.

In any case, the decision meant Goldman was likely to absorb sizable losses and prompted the bank to lower the size of some employees’ bonuses.

Last week, discussing Goldman’s fourth-quarter results, Chief Financial Officer Harvey Schwartz said a loss from the Oak Finance securities made a small dent in its trading division’s results. He said Goldman remains in “active dialogue” with the Bank of Portugal.

—Justin Baer contributed to this article.

Write to Margot Patrick at and Patricia Kowsmann at

(Fim de citação)