Pescanova Said to Have Debt of EU2.7 Billion After Review

Pescanova SA, the Spanish fish processor that sought protection from creditors yesterday, may say debt widened to about 2.7 billion euros ($3.5 billion) at the end of December following an internal review of its finances, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Pescanova may announce the figure today, the person said, asking not to be identified because the details aren’t public. Europe’s second-biggest fish processor reported having consolidated financial debt of 967.8 million euros as of June 30, 2012. The person didn’t give a reason for the difference.

The company, which is being investigated by Spain’s market regulator for possible improper trading, said March 12 that it saw discrepancies between its accounting and debt figures that could be “significant.” Pescanova said late yesterday it sought court protection from creditors after refinancing talks with lenders failed.

Pescanova expects Spain’s stock market regulator, or CNMV, to publish its results for the second half of 2012 as soon as today after the company’s board approved them last night at its Pontevedra headquarters in northern Spain, the person said.

Business Plan

The company aims to provide a business plan to creditors that protects them, workers and shareholders, Pescanova said yesterday. The board has also asked court for permission to revoke BDO Auditores SL as its auditor, and it plans to hire a forensic auditor to review its 2012 accounts.

The shares have been suspended since March 12 and dropped 74 percent in the 12 months to that date. Pescanova’s 160 million euros of 8.75 percent convertible bonds due 2019, which were quoted at 109.2 cents on the euro on March 1, were at 29.2 cents today, up from 27.9 cents yesterday, Bloomberg generic prices show.

Joaquin Vina Tamargo, head of investor relations, couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.

“The restructuring process will be long and complicated,” Jesus Dominguez, a Madrid-based analyst at Banesto Bolsa, wrote in a note sent to investors today. “The debt level remains the biggest question mark.”

The best solution for the company would be to sell assets and reach an accord with banks and bondholders, Dominguez said.

Pescanova spokesman Juan Antonio Tarjuelo said yesterday the company is in talks about selling its Chilean assets, declining to comment on who the discussions are with.

Marine Harvest ASA, the biggest salmon farmer, is seeking to buy assets in Chile, as industry consolidation gathers pace and prices recover, Chief Financial Officer Ivan Vindheim also said yesterday.