UPDATE 1-ESFG says exposure to Esprito Santo companies rises to 2.35 bln euros

Thu Jul 3, 2014 2:31pm EDT

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(Recasts with higher exposure figure, adds detail from statement, background)

LISBON, July 3 (Reuters) - The largest shareholder in Portugal's Banco Espirito Santo (BES) is owed 2.35 billion euros ($3.2 billion) by companies within the wider Espirito Santo Group, a higher total than previously disclosed, figures released on Thursday showed.

The disclosure, made by Luxembourg-based Espirito Santo Financial Group (ESFG), sheds light on the financial position of EFSG, which owns 25 percent of BES, Portugal's largest listed bank and which is controlled by the Espirito Santo family which recently lost control of the bank they founded.

ESFG had previously said it was owed 1.37 billion euros by two family holding companies, ESI and Rioforte, and had also said it had taken a 700 million euros provision to guarantee the repayment of ESI debt sold to retail clients of BES.

It was not clear if the 700 million was included either in the 1.37 billion or the higher total of 2.35 billion, disclosed on Thursday in a statement issued after European markets closed.

It said the increased exposure came because of guarantees it had to give to repay short-term debt of Rioforte and ESI, who are collectively known as GES.

ESFG had agreed to guarantee the paper after the Bank of Portugal expressed concerns about the debt sale by BES to retail clients, amid revelations of financial irregularities at one of the companies, ESI.

It said the 2.35 billion euro exposure was partially secured by collateral provided by GES in the form of shares in non-financial investments. It did not say what these were. Rioforte's assets include property holdings in Portugal.

ESFG also said it had external unsecured debt of 830.2 million euros at the end of June, up from 780.2 million three months earlier. Its borrowings from BES were 823 million euros.

ESFG also said it was not under investigation by Luxembourg authorities over accounts irregularities, responding to a comment from Luxembourg's justice authorities which said last week they had in May begun an investigation into three Luxembourg-registered holding companies of Portugal's Espirito Santo banking family, including ESFG.

However the Luxembourg authorities had not referred to accounting issues, only alleged breaches of company law.

ESFG did not refer to any other possible breaches of company law. It did refer to "material irregularities in the accounts of its shareholder ES International", that were acknowledged by ESFG and BES in May, making clear that ESFG was not being investigated over that particular subject.

($1 = 0.7331 Euros) (Reporting by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Axel Bugge and David Holmes)

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