Espirito Santo’s Rioforte Sells Stake in Farm, Seeks Investors

Rioforte, which oversees an estimated 3.2 billion euros ($4.3 billion) in assets controlled by Portugal’s Espirito Santo Group, is seeking investors for its businesses including farming, real estate and energy.

The Luxembourg-based company agreed to sell a minority stake in its Paraguay Agricultural Corp. unit this week to German development firm Deutsche Investitions und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH for 25 million euros, according to Rioforte Chief Executive Officer Joao Pena.

“We expect to carry out more deals similar to this one throughout the year,” Pena, 51, told reporters in Lisbon.

He declined to provide details about the size of the stake bought by DEG, a subsidiary of Germany’s state-owned KfW Group development bank. The deal will help increase the production of soybeans and other products across more than 135,000 hectares (333,000 acres) of land in Paraguay, Pena said.

The Espirito Santo family, which owns the Espirito Santo Group, one of the biggest shareholders of Lisbon-based Banco Espirito Santo SA, doesn’t plan to hold an initial public offering of Rioforte, Pena said.

A company document obtained by Bloomberg News in 2010 indicated that Espirito Santo was planning to sell as much as 49 percent of Rioforte to institutional investors in four or five years. The document was confirmed by Rioforte at the time.

“The way forward, in the medium to long term, is to continue to bet on partnerships” similar to the one with DEG, Pena said.

Rioforte Holdings

Rioforte concentrates on Espirito Santo Group’s non-financial investments. Its businesses include the Tivoli Hotels & Resorts Hotel chain, renewable energy unit Energias Renovaveis do Brasil, a travel agency and real estate, according to the company’s website. Most of these assets are in Portugal and South America, Pena said. Rioforte agreed to sell its Angolan unit, Escom-Espirito Santo Commerce, a mining and real estate company, in 2010, said Pedro Fernandes, a Rioforte spokesman.

While Rioforte is “constantly” looking for partners to develop its units, it doesn’t plan to sell any of its existing businesses, Pena said.

“A lot of people have come knocking on our door, but we’re not selling any assets,” said Pena, a managing director at consulting firm A.T. Kearney Portugal before joining Rioforte three years ago. “Even investor interest in our assets in Portugal has been changing in a positive way.”