Brazil court weighs claims holding up Bunge soy acquisitions

SAO PAULO, Feb 3 (Reuters) - A Brazilian appeals court on Wednesday could clear up a legal hurdle delaying Bunge’s plans to take over two soy processing plants following a deal in May with crusher Imcopa.

Wednesday’s hearing will focus on two Panama-registered firms that claim, as indirect creditors of Imcopa, which is in bankruptcy protection, to have rights to some of the proceeds from the sale, according to court filings seen by Reuters.

The three-judge panel is expected to rule on whether the Panamanian firms Minefer Development SA and Triana Business SA are legitimate participants in the process.

The panel will also decide whether to uphold a May 2020 decision determining that part of the proceeds from the sale of the soy plants should be deposited in an escrow account pending a final ruling on the Panamanians’ claims, according to the filings.

Bunge and Imcopa declined to comment. Lawyers for Minefer and Triana did not respond to requests for comment.

Bunge agreed to take on some 1 billion reais ($186 million) of debt and pay 50 million reais for the Brazilian soy crushing plants, which can process about 1.5 million tonnes of soybeans per year.

Imcopa’s plants are being operated by brewer Cervejaria Petrópolis, which has challenged Imcopa’s early termination of their leasing agreement. A final ruling is pending on the matter.

That dispute, plus the legal challenges from the Panama entities, have forced Bunge to wait nearly a year before getting its hands on the Imcopa plants.

The owner of Cervejaria Petrópolis, Walter Faria, holds 100% of Panama-based Minefer and Triana, according to public records pertaining to an unrelated court case.

Cervejaria Petrópolis declined to comment on Faria’s ownership of Minifer and Triana. The brewer said in a statement to Reuters that it aims to keep operating Imcopa’s facilities through 2024, when its leasing agreement would expire.

$1 = 5.36 reais Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Dan Grebler