* Batista will retain $2 bln of assets, $1.7 bln debt
* MPX share sale halt starts major EBX restructuring
* E.ON seeks to rebrand MPX outside of Batista empire
* Batista's troubles mirror change of fortunes for Brazil
By Jeb Blount and Guillermo Parra-Bernal
RIO DE JANEIRO/SAO PAULO, July 4 Brazilian
billionaire Eike Batista's EBX Group, a once high-flying
industrial conglomerate, began breaking up on Thursday, the
latest victim of a screeching halt in a decade-long commodities
Batista, the founder and vital force behind the oil, energy,
port, shipbuilding and mining group, stepped down as chairman of
MPX Energia SA, the embattled EBX Group's most
promising company. The electricity generation firm will also
change its name by October to position itself outside the EBX
Group, MPX executives said on a conference call.
The magnate, who branded all his companies with an "X" for
"the multiplication of wealth," will now attempt to restructure
his companies to alleviate debt woes and other problems that
have slashed more than $20 billion from his holdings in the
When restructuring of EBX ends, Batista will be left with
between $1 billion to $2 billion of assets and $1.7 billion of
long-term debt, a source with direct knowledge of EBX plans told
Reuters. That is only a sliver of his former empire that was
once valued at over $60 billion.
Most EBX Group shares are now almost worthless and debt
trades at levels suggesting default, leading investors to
question Batista's promise to invest more. Brazil's economy is
also struggling, its currency weakening and Chinese demand - the
driving force behind the Brazilian boom of the last decade -
"Batista's plight is like Brazil's, a sign we can no longer
ignore the country's plight," said Alexandre Barros, founder of
Early Warning, a Brasilia political risk consultancy. "Batista
got investors excited about Brazil's potential, which was real,
but like Brazil, Batista failed to deliver."
To avoid bankruptcy, Batista will have to sell most of his
remaining stakes in EBX companies, the source with knowledge of
the company's plans said. The only major asset likely to remain
is LLX Logistica SA, the owner of the Port of Açu,
north of Rio de Janeiro, the source said.
The source asked not to be identified because he is not
authorized to speak to the media. EBX declined to comment.
The main source of cash for the restructuring will be
Batista's stakes in MPX and iron ore miner MMX Mineração e
Metálicos SA. As of May 21, Batista owned 29 percent
of MPX and 57 percent of MMX, according to Thomson Reuters data.
MMX on Thursday suspended operations for six months at its
high-grade iron ore mine in Corumbá, Brazil, near Bolivia's
border. The suspension is an effort to preserve investors'
capital, according to a securities filing.
"These assets (MPX and MMX) are cheap compared to their real
value," the source said.
Batista, who borrowed against the value of his stock only to
see the value of his companies plunge, will sell his holdings in
MPX and MMX to pay back $1 billion owed to Brazil's
Itau-Unibanco Holding SA and Banco Bradesco SA
, the source said. The proceeds should more than pay
the debt, leaving him some excess cash, the source added.
ABU DHABI DEBT
Batista will also cut his debt to Abu Dhabi sovereign-wealth
fund Mubadala, EBX's biggest creditor, reducing it by
more than 25 percent to between $1.6 billion and $1.7 billion,
the source said.
Batista incurred the debt when he sold a 5.56 percent stake
of preferred shares in his holding company Centennial
Investments to Mubadala in March 2012.
The restructuring should take several months, the source
said, adding that the biggest challenge will be reorganizing OGX
Petróleo e Gás Participações SA, which raised $4
billion in 2008 in what was then Brazil's biggest-ever initial
OGX, after declaring three of its oil fields non-commercial
on Monday, must be reduced to fraction of its size, the source
said. Until earlier this year it was Brazil's No. 2 oil company
by market value.
The new OGX is unlikely to be able to support payments on
$3.63 billion of bonds, the source said. OGX debt due in 2018
and 2022 is already trading at less than 20 percent of face
value, a sign that investors expect a default.
Shipbuilder OSX will have to sell its oil-production vessels
to pay for the abandonment of its half-finished shipyard at
LLX's Port of Açu. The remainder of OSX will belong to EBX, the
MPX CONTROLLED BY E.ON
MPX stock, which had fallen 42 percent this year, jumped as
much as 13 percent before closing up 10 percent in Sao Paulo on
Thursday. OGX, rose 21 percent, MMX rose 8.5 percent, and LLX
rose 5 pct. OSX fell 8.7 percent.
Batista's departure from MPX came after the operator of coal
and natural-gas fired power plants canceled a 1.2-billion-real
($528 million) sale of stock to controlling and minority
shareholders early on Thursday.
The offer became untenable as market conditions deteriorated
and Grupo BTG Pactual SA, the investment bank
controlled by Brazilian billionaire Andre Esteves and MPX's
advisor on the plan, recommended the decision, the filing said.
Instead, MPX will sell 800 million reais of stock at 6.45
reais a share in a private placement in which Batista, partner
E.ON SE, a German utility, and BTG Pactual will be
allowed to participate, the filing added.
E.ON has agreed to buy up to 367 million reais worth of
stock in the private placement, while BTG Pactual committed to
buy the remainder. E.ON owns 36 percent of MPX, a portion that
could increase to as much as 38 percent under the new plan.
Despite Batista's 29 percent stake, and a shareholder
agreement giving him a say in MPX operations, the company is now
fully controlled by E.ON, the source said. Batista is unlikely
to buy shares in the private placement.
"MPX is the best company in the group and they are working
quickly to insulate the company and separate it from the risk
associated with Batista's EBX group," said Ricardo Correa,
energy company analyst with Ativa Corretora, a Rio de Janeiro
BTG Pactual is expected to have an 11 percent stake in MPX
after the private placement. Media representatives for BTG
declined to comment.
MPX said proceeds from the sale will be used to strengthen
the company's balance sheet and prepare it for growth. It wants
to participate in upcoming auctions for rights to sell thermal
and wind power to the national grid through year-end, MPX Chief
Executive Eduardo Karrer said on Thursday's conference call.