Banco Espirito Santo shareholders seek explanation

Pile Of Coins

Shareholders in Banco Espirito Santo were hoping to resolve concerns about the fate of the institution at an extraordinary general meeting on 31 July in Lisbon.

But a precipitous fall in its share price and a downgrade in the bank's bonds which forced the suspension of trading in its shares has brought the need for explanations forward by three weeks.

Dating its foundation back to 1869, Banco Espirito Santo is a cornerstone of financial services in Portugal and the biggest of the country's listed banks. It operates in more than 20 countries and has recently expanded into Libya and Mozambique. A London branch is used for wholesale banking, including syndicating loans for clients.

It is 25% owned by a subsidiary of Espirito Santo International (ESI). ESI has been under scrutiny since an audit found "material irregularities" at the Espirito Santo family holding company and the bank's shares have slumped on worries that the bank's capital base could be affected. The bank's shares have lost almost half of their value in the past month.

In essence, it appears the bank has lent money to the holding company and then sold the debt to its clients. When the loans were scheduled to be redeemed, the holding company has been unable to repay.

Reuters reported that the family is considering debt-for-equity swaps and may ask for more time to repay debts as it grapples with its financial problems.

Reuters said sources close to the bank had told it that potential asset sales were also being considered in the medium term, though such measures required even more thorough preparation because creditors and shareholders could later challenge any sale of distressed assets.

Luxembourg authorities said last month that they had launched an investigation into ESI over alleged breaches of company law.

Last week, Espirito Santo Financial Group (ESFG), which holds ESI's 25% stake in the bank, said the family's companies owed it €2.35bn in June, up from €1.37bn at the end of last year.

Powered by article was written by Phillip Inman, for on Thursday 10th July 2014 20.02 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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