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Portugal’s Biggest Banks Increase Holdings in Nation’s Debt

Portugal’s three biggest publicly traded banks’ combined holdings of their country’s sovereign debt rose 11.5 percent in the second quarter from the previous quarter after the nation returned to the bond market.

The holdings rose to 16.15 billion euros ($21.45 billion) from 14.49 billion euros at the end of March, according to filings by the lenders.

Portugal sold 10-year debt in May for the first time in more than two years amid investor demand for higher-yielding assets. Yields on the country’s existing bonds reached the lowest since 2010. The country had stopped selling bonds after it requested a bailout in April 2011.

Banco Comercial Portugues SA, the country’s second-biggest listed bank by market value, held 6.55 billion euros of Portuguese debt, of which 3.9 billion euros were bonds, the Oporto-based lender said yesterday in a filing. That’s more than the 5.89 billion euros owned at the end of March. The bank, which sold all its holdings of Greek debt, also owns Polish, Mozambican, Angolan and Romanian debt.

Banco BPI SA, the third-biggest publicly traded bank, had 5.2 billion euros of Portuguese sovereign debt at the end of June, of which 3.6 billion euros was in treasury bills, the Oporto-based bank said July 24. That’s more than the 4.6 billion euros held at the end of March. The bank also owns Italian and Irish debt.

Banco Espirito Santo SA, Portugal’s biggest publicly traded bank by market value, owned 4.4 billion euros in Portuguese debt, including 1.4 billion euros in debt maturing in a year or less, the Lisbon-based bank said July 26. That’s more than the 4 billion euros held in March. The lender also holds Spanish, Italian and Greek sovereign debt, mostly in shorter maturities.

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