By Tatiana Bautzer and Guillermo Parra-Bernal
SAO PAULO (Reuters) – J&F Investimentos SA has ended talks to sell a controlling stake in Havaianas flip flop maker Alpargatas SA to the investment firms of Brazil’s most prominent banking clans because of differences over price, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said on Sunday.
According to the person, J&F shunned pressure from Cambuhy Investimentos Ltda and Itaúsa Investimentos SA to lower the asking price for an 86 percent stake in Alpargatas as the end of an exclusivity period for talks approached on Sunday. The person declined to elaborate on the size of the price gap.
Reuters reported earlier in the day that Cambuhy and Itaúsa had offered 3.3 billion reais to 3.5 billion reais ($1 billion to $1.1 billion) for Alpargatas.
Cambuhy, Itaúsa and Bradesco did not comment. J&F did not have an immediate comment.
J&F, which oversees the fortune of the billionaire Batista family, must raise cash to pay a 10.3 billion real leniency fine and refinance looming loan maturities, the report said. Brothers and J&F’s owners Joesley and Wesley Batista signed a leniency deal in May after admitting to bribing almost 1,900 politicians.
The Batistas will resume the process to sell Alpargatas in the form of a competitive auction “as soon as possible,” said the person, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
J&F hired Banco Bradesco BBI as an advisor on the sale.
Common shares of São Paulo-based Alpargatas have rallied 35 percent over the past three months, on speculation the Batistas would put the valuable fashion branding company and leisure clothing maker up for sale. The stock is up 63 percent this year.
According to the person, J&F sought a higher price for Alpargatas, which also manages a wide array of Brazilian fashion brands including beachwear brand Osklen. The company’s Havaianas flip flops, created in 1962 during Brazil’s Bossa-Nova musical movement, are worn globally by celebrities from Blake Lively to Jennifer Aniston.
Itaúsa oversees the fortune of Brazil’s Villela and Setubal families, who control São Paulo-based Itaú Unibanco Holding SA, Latin America’s largest bank by assets. Cambuhy is the family office of Brazil’s billionaire Moreira Salles family, also a major Itaú shareholder.
Both Cambuhy and Itaúsa had informed regulators on June 26 that, should their bid succeeded, they would split equally the Alpargatas stake. Reuters had reported their preliminary bidding proposal on June 16.
PACE OF TALKS
The pace of talks between J&F and the Cambuhy-Itaúsa group had gained steam in recent days, as creditors pressed the Batistas to renegotiate more than 30 billion reais of debt at J&F and JBS SA, the world’s No. 1 meatpacker, which the brothers also control.
The Batistas planned to use proceeds from the Alpargatas stake sale to repay a 2.7 billion-real acquisition financing loan they took with state-controlled lender Caixa Econômica Federal, Reuters reported earlier in the day. The loan is under investigation by Brazil’s audit court TCU for potential irregularities.
The Batistas acquired Alpargatas in December 2015 from construction conglomerate Camargo Correa SA, which was ensnared in the same scandal.
J&F’s controlling stakes in dairy producer Fábrica de Produtos Alimentícios Vigor SA and pulpmaker Eldorado Brasil Celulose SA are also on the block and their sale processes are advancing, Reuters reported in recent weeks.
The sale of Alpargatas, Vigor and Eldorado could raise 10 billion reais and cut J&F debts by another 10 billion reais, people familiar with the family’s strategy told Reuters on Sunday.
(Editing by Christian Plumb and Mary Milliken)