Chile Pension Fund Expects to Recoup La Polar Investment

AFP Habitat (HABITAT) SA, Chile’s second- largest pension fund manager, said it expects to recoup its investment in Empresas La Polar SA (LAPOLAR), the retailer under investigation for consumer-credit irregularities.

Habitat, which manages about $39 billion of assets, has maintained its minority stake in La Polar even as the stock tumbled as much as 80 percent after the department-store chain revealed on June 9 additional loan-loss provisions, Chairman Jose Antonio Guzman said today in an interview in London.

La Polar surged as much as a record 38 percent in Santiago trading today after entrepreneur Alvaro Saieh bought a 10 percent stake and said he may buy more shares pending the outcome of talks with lenders.

“It’s very good that a controlling shareholder enters the company to put an extra eye on the administration,” Guzman said. “We trust that the investment we have will be recovered - - not immediately, but in the medium term.”

La Polar said this month executives restructured 475 billion pesos ($1 billion) of overdue credit without the consent of the more than 400,000 customers involved, triggering regulatory and criminal probes.

La Polar will meet with bondholders tomorrow to discuss waiving covenants that would accelerate prepayments. That probably will enable La Polar to avoid defaulting on its debt payments, Guzman said.

“The company has potential and we are doing all we can as investors so that the company can be re-established,” he said.

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