LISBON (Reuters) – The sale of Portugal’s state-rescued Novo Banco to U.S. private equity firm Lone Star should be concluded by November following a 500 million euro ($566 million) debt swap that will be launched soon, deputy finance minister said on Wednesday.
Playing down concerns that lawsuits filed by some bondholders could derail the agreed deal, Ricardo Mourinho Felix told a parliament committee that European Union banking supervisors and the EU directorate general for competition were aware of this tentative timetable.
“At the moment, we expect that the bond swap process, to be announced soon, will be concluded during the summer, so that the sale can be finalised by November,” he told lawmakers. “The bond exchange process is being prepared right now.”
The government has said that an August deadline initially set by Brussels to sell Novo Banco ceased to exist in March when Portugal reached a preliminary agreement for Lone Star to buy the lender in exchange for a 1 billion euro capital injection.
The key condition of the deal is a so-called liability management exercise, or a bond swap, that the bank has to perform to generate additional capital worth 500 million euros.
EU authorities will also still have to approve a restructuring plan for Novo Banco for the sale to go ahead as planned.
Novo Banco was carved out of the country’s biggest ever bank collapse in 2014 after a 4.9 billion euro rescue operation of Banco Espirito Santo.
A group of bondholders led by U.S. fund BlackRock have sought an injunction to block the sale, fearing it would damage their claim to be compensated for an estimated 1.5 billion euros in losses suffered on Novo Banco bonds.
A failed bidder for Novo Banco has also said it would go to court in a separate attempt to re-open the sale process.
(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves and Andrei Khalip; Editing by Mark Potter)