Novo Banco Shortlist Seen Shortening in Portugal Sale Blow

  • BPI may drop out of race to buy lender from Bank of Portugal
  • Bid said to be opposed by largest shareholder, CaixaBank

Portugal’s efforts to sell Novo Banco SA are about to get more difficult.

Banco BPI SA may have to drop out as a potential acquirer because of opposition from its own largest shareholder CaixaBank SA. Officials at CaixaBank have told investors they will oppose a deal for Novo Banco once they gain control of BPI through a looming takeover, according to four people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private.

A BPI withdrawal would complicate the Bank of Portugal’s second attempt to dispose of Novo Banco as only four groups have made acquisition proposals. The central bank scrapped a sale last year because offers were too low. Novo Banco emerged from the collapse of Banco Espirito Santo SA, once Portugal’s largest lender by market value.

When asked about potential interest in Novo Banco on a July conference call with analysts, CaxiaBank Chief Executive Officer Gonzalo Gortazar Rotaeche said that the lender is only interested in buying BPI.

“CaixaBank will not make any comment related to Novo Banco,” a spokesman wrote in an e-mailed response to Bloomberg News questions. “CaixaBank is only focused on BPI offer in Portugal.”

BPI Interest

A Bank of Portugal spokesman declined to comment. A spokesman for BPI wasn’t immediately available for comment.

BPI is “seriously studying” the Novo Banco sale, Chairman Artur Santos Silva said at a press conference on Sept. 21. That was the same day that a key shareholder vote cleared the way for a takeover by CaixaBank, Spain’s third-largest lender.

The Spanish bank, which pursued BPI for more than a year, has sold shares for 1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion) to help fund the acquisition. It probably wouldn’t support a BPI takeover of Novo Banco as that would likely require further fundraising, Autonomous Research analyst Britta Schmidt wrote in a note last week.

CaixaBank shares rose 1 percent to 2.23 euros at 2:24 p.m. in Madrid trading.

The Bank of Portugal said in June that it would analyze the four proposals for Novo Banco, and then decide whether to sell the bank to a strategic buyer, such as another lender, or to a group of institutional investors, which could involve an initial public offering. 

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