(Corrects date of DE Shaw stake acquisition in 13th par to July
14 from June 14)
* Espirito Santo family company Rioforte seeks creditor
* Rioforte owes Banco Espirito Santo 220 million euros
* Goldman Sachs, DE Shaw take stakes in BES
* BES appoints Deutsche Bank to advise on balance sheet
* ESFG sells stake in Swiss private bank
By Laura Noonan and Axel Bugge
LISBON, July 22 The woes of Portugal's only
banking dynasty, the Espirito Santo family, mounted on Tuesday
as another of their holding companies asked a court for
protection from creditors.
The announcement from Rioforte came less than an hour after
Banco Espirito Santo, which the family founded, said
that two heavyweight U.S. investors had taken a combined stake
of almost 5 percent in BES.
Rioforte employs about 10,000 people and owns the family's
non-financial assets, which include the largest piece of private
property in Portugal, interests in tourism, energy, healthcare
and farming from Brazil to Mozambique. It also has a 49.3
percent share in Espirito Santo Financial Group (ESFG), which
owns 20 percent of BES.
Rioforte said in a statement it had asked for protection
from its creditors because it was not able to pay some debts
that had fallen due from July 9.
The company failed to pay 897 million euros ($1.2 billion)
due to Portugal Telecom (PT) last week, triggering the
re-negotiation of PT's planned merger with Brazil's Oi.
"Rioforte believes that a transparent and orderly
restructuring of the company in the context of a controlled
management procedure will allow the long-term financial
sustainability of the company," the statement said, adding that
asset sales might be pursued.
Rioforte's own parent company, Espirito Santo International,
said on Tuesday that it had been successful in an application
for creditor protection, which was made in Luxembourg on July
Rioforte owed BES 220 million euros on June 30, the bank
said previously. Those debts, plus another 925 million euros of
borrowing from ESFG, had spooked some investors in the bank.
The troubles at the Espirito Santo holding companies have
also worried investors in BES, and its shares are down 60
percent in the last month.
Some saw light at the end of the tunnel on Tuesday evening,
with the announcement that U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs
acquired a 2.27 percent interest in BES, while U.S. hedge fund
D.E. Shaw has taken a 2.7 percent interest.
"It's positive that other institutional investors are
showing confidence in the BES franchise and appearing on the
share register," said Ciaran Callaghan, a senior analyst at
Dublin-based Merrion Capital.
"This may encourage others to come on board and support a
recapitalisation of the bank, though it still remains to be seen
if these new investors will be committed to the BES organisation
and take long-term stakes in the institution."
BES said Goldman had acquired its interest in the bank on
July 15. It added that U.S. hedge fund D.E. Shaw had taken a 2.7
percent interest in the bank on July 14.
ESFG sold 4.99 percent of the bank on July 14 in order to
BES could not immediately be reached to comment on whether
Goldman Sachs and D.E. Shaw bought their interests from the
family. Representatives from Goldman Sachs and D.E. Shaw in New
York were not immediately able to comment.
On Tuesday, BES also announced that it had appointed
Deutsche Bank to advise on ways to improve its balance sheet
structure and said that it was postponing its half-year results
to July 30. They were originally expected on July 25.
ESFG said on Tuesday it had sold part of Banque Privee
Espirito Santo, its operation in Switzerland, to CBH Compagnie
Bancaire Helvetique. It provided no details on the size of the
stake or the value of the transaction.
Banking authorities in Panama said last week they have taken
over ESFG's banking unit there "to protect and defend the
interests of depositors and creditors of the institution, given
the lack of liquidity and potential insolvency."
($1 = 0.7426 Euros)
(Editing by Keiron Henderson)