BTG Said to Work With Lazard for Sale of Swiss Private Bank

  • Brazilian bank reaches out to potential Swiss, foreign buyers
  • BTG acquired BSI from Generali for $1.26 billion in September

Grupo BTG Pactual SA, the Brazilian bank trying to shore up cash after the arrest of its billionaire founder, is working with Lazard Ltd. on the potential sale of Swiss private bank BSI, according to two people familiar with the matter.

BTG and the New York-based financial adviser are reaching out to possible buyers including Swiss banks and foreign lenders, the people said, asking not to be identified because the talks are private. Sao Paulo-based BTG completed the acquisition of BSI from Italy’s Assicurazioni Generali SpA in September, paying 1.25 billion Swiss francs ($1.26 billion).

BTG has been reeling since Nov. 25, when then-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Andre Esteves was arrested on suspicion he tried to obstruct a nationwide corruption probe involving the state-owned oil company, Petroleo Brasileiro SA. Esteves has denied the allegations through his attorneys. Concern that BTG will struggle to recover after the loss of its charismatic founder has sent BTG’s shares and bonds tumbling as investors pulled funds and the firm’s ratings fell to junk.

BTG also is looking to sell distressed-asset management firm Recovery do Brasil Consultoria SA, and is considering whether to split up the business for multiple buyers, according to two people familiar with those negotiations. It’s the biggest firm of its kind in Latin America and held bad debt with a face value of about 50 billion reais as of October. After talks between BTG and investors began this week, the bank will probably start collecting bids on Dec. 16, the people said.

BSI, based in Lugano, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland about an hour’s drive from Milan, oversaw 92 billion francs for wealthy people at the end of 2014, according to a company filing.

An official at BTG declined to comment on the BSI talks. Judi Mackey, a Lazard spokeswoman, also declined to comment.

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