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Lusa - Business News - Portugal: Government tells Novo Banco not to sell assets until audit completed




Lisbon, July 31,2020(Lusa)-Portugal's government on Friday announced that the audit of the Novo Banco will not be completed until Friday, considering that until its completion no further asset portfolio sales by the banking institution should be made.

A statement issued Thursday night by the ministry of finance stated that on Friday there will be a meeting of the Operational Monitoring Committee for the audit of the Novo Banco, a body that is composed of the Resolution Fund, Novo Banco, as the audited entity, and Deloitte, as the independent auditor selected to carry out the said audit.

Regretting that on that date, the independent auditor has not yet submitted the final and definitive version of the audit report, the ministry of finance is waiting for that report to be concluded and sent to the government and to the parties represented in parliament as soon as possible.

"Given this delay, the government said that, until the conclusion of the audit, no further operations should be carried out by Novo Banco for the sale of unproductive asset portfolios."

According to the ministry, following the concerns expressed by the government, the Resolution Fund said on Thursday that it shares the same understanding, having already told Novo Banco that it should not carry out such operations until the conclusion of the audit process.

Novo Banco, which took over part of BES's banking activity following the 2014 Resolution, was sold in 2017 to the US Lone Star Fund, which holds 75% of its capital, the remaining 25% is owned by the Bank of Portugal's Bank Resolution Fund.

Expresso reported on Saturday that the prime minister, António Costa, sent a letter to the Attorney General, Lucília Gago, requesting the suspension of the sale of Novo Banco's assets until the audit by Deloitte is concluded.

According to the letter, to which Lusa later had access, the head of government talks about the accusations made in parliament by the president of Social Democratic Party (PSD), Rui Rio, about the asset sales by Novo Banco to support the request for the Public Prosecutor's Office to take the appropriate precautionary procedures to protect the state's financial interests until the audit is completed.

The newspaper Público reported in early July that almost 200 properties sold in August 2019 with a discount of nearly 70% to entities linked to the Cerberus investment fund had losses of €328.8 million and that this fund is the main shareholder of the Austrian bank Bawag PSK, which was led by Byron Haines until mid-2017, shortly before he took over the position of chairman of Novo Banco (chairman of the General and Supervisory Board).

On Tuesday, Público reported that the sale of another set of properties made in October 2018 (project 'Viriato', as Novo Banco called it) was made to entities of a fund registered in the Cayman Islands where the owners are unknown, with a price significantly below that registered (the properties were registered in the bank's balance sheet for €631 million and were sold for 364 million), with the Resolution Fund covering losses of hundreds of millions of euros. Besides, the deal was made with money that Novo Banco lent to the fund to make this acquisition.

One day later, the executive president of Novo Banco, António Ramalho, said in a statement that he was happy to give all the clarifications to the parliament until August, following the news about real estate sales operations.

In the same communiqué, the Board reaffirmed that the operations carried out on real estate have always been by the principles of good conduct and proper banking practices and certainly in strict compliance with the law and the contracts signed in 2017, including the shared management of the protected assets that may generate losses to be borne by its shareholder Resolution Fund.

SR/IMYN // ADB.

Lusa


Agency : LUSA

Date : 2020-08-01 10:02:00







 

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