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A man passes by an office of Portuguese bank Banco Espirito Santo (BES) in downtown Lisbon August 1, 2014. (HUGO CORREIA/REUTERS)
A man passes by an office of Portuguese bank Banco Espirito Santo (BES) in downtown Lisbon August 1, 2014. (HUGO CORREIA/REUTERS)

Portugal to rescue troubled bank using bailout money Add to ...

Portugal’s central bank said on Sunday it decided to rescue troubled lender Banco Espirito Santo in a €4.9-billion recapitalisation to be pumped into the healthy part of the bank that will be separated from its compromised assets.

The money comes mostly from the country’s international bailout, which had a €6.4-billion line available for bank recapitalisation, via a bank resolution fund set up by Portugal in 2012, Bank of Portugal Governor Carlos Costa said.

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Current shareholders in BES and holders of subordinated debt will be responsible for the risks in the “bad bank” mainly associated the crumbling business empire of the bank’s founding Espirito Santo family.

The European Commission said that Portugal’s rescue of Banco Espirito Santo (BES) was in line with EU state aid rules.

“The adoption of this resolution measure is adequate to restore confidence in financial stability and to ensure the continuity of services and avoid potential adverse systemic effects,” the Commission said in a statement.

The Commission said a disorderly resolution of BES could have created a serious disturbance in the Portugues economy and that the creation of a temporary credit institution, holding deposits, senior debt and most of the assets, was a suitable remedy.

To limit market distortions, the latter’s new business would be limited, it said.

Banco Espirito Santo would be split into “bad” and “good” banks under a multi-billion euro state rescue plan being hashed out by Lisbon and EU authorities, people familiar with the talks earlier told Reuters.

The plan, aimed at saving a bank that has been engulfed by the fall of the Espirito Santo family’s business empire, includes using at least half of the €6-billion left from Portugal’s recently exited international bailout program, these sources said.

The bailout money will be used to finance a special bank resolution fund set up by Portugal in 2012 that will in turn inject money into the new Banco Espirito Santo, or BES, “good bank”, these people said.

BES shares would be delisted under the plan, with shareholders likely to lose their investment, they added.

The use of the bank resolution fund – which will eventually have to reimburse the state after recouping money from future investors – is aimed at limiting the political fallout of using taxpayer money to prop up a bank at a time when Portugal is only just emerging from a deep economic downturn, they added.

The scramble to save Portugal’s largest-listed bank by assets comes after BES last week posted a deeper than expected €3.6-billion loss and said it was exposed even more deeply than originally thought to a cascade of bankrupt companies belonging to its founding Espirito Santo family.

Those disclosures, and the announcement that authorities were looking into possible illegal activity at the bank, have scared away investors ahead of a planned capital increase by BES over the next few weeks.

After a tumultuous week in which BES shares lost 75 per cent of their value, authorities at the government and Bank of Portugal realized that using public funds was the only solution for now, people familiar with the authorities’ thinking said.

Under the plan being hatched on Sunday, BES would be split into a “bad bank” holding toxic assets mostly related to its exposure to the Espirito Santo family, and a healthy part that would be taken over by the bank resolution fund and eventually sold off to private investors, according to the sources.

The fund, which is financed by all banks in Portugal and has representatives of the country’s central bank and government on its board, had just €185-million as of the end of last year. Under the rescue plan, it will receive at least half of the country’s left-over bailout money, which it will use to help BES.

Proceeds eventually raised from investors would then repay the fund, which will in turn repay the state. Under the scheme, holders of the lender’s subordinated debt could lose at least part of their investment, a source said.

Portugal exited its €78-billion international bailout in May, and still has €6.4-billion from an original €12-billion bank recapitalisation line received under the program.

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