JBS CEO Meets Investors in New York as Brother Draws Ire

  • CEO Wesley Batista sought to assure investors after scandal
  • Younger brother Joesley has been focus of plea deal backlash

As Brazilians lash out at Joesley Batista, the beef tycoon at the center of the latest corruption scandal to hit the South American nation, his less flashy older brother is trying to reassure investors it’s business as usual at the world’s largest meatpacker.

Wesley Batista, who kept his post as chief executive officer at meatpacking giant JBS SA after signing a plea agreement with prosecutors, has met with several investors in New York in the past week, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified because the meetings were private. In the gatherings, he tried to shore up confidence and encourage investment in his company, which has lost about a third of its value on the stock market since news of the plea broke last month.

A JBS spokeswoman confirmed Wesley was in New York to meet with stakeholders, declining to give further details.

In Brazil, meanwhile, grainy photos of Joesley exiting the federal police in sunglasses and a baseball cap were splashed across newspapers. Joesley, the family’s youngest son, has been the focus of much of the public backlash following the plea agreement in which the brothers agreed to pay 225 million reais ($68 million) in fines while avoiding a trail. In testimony to federal prosecutors, the Batistas admitted to paying bribes to more than 1,800 politicians over the years in return for loans and capital injections from state-run banks and pension funds.

Their plea bargain has thrown Brazil back into political chaos following accusations made against President Michel Temer. The head of state, in a voice recording secretly made by Joesley that he handed over to prosecutors, appears to have approved a payment of hush money to a now-jailed lawmaker. Temer this week called the executive a "confessed thief" who should be in jail and yet is free to travel abroad.

"He had a hat on as disguise,” Temer said in a nationally televised press conference Tuesday, referring to Joesley’s appearance as he left the police station. “We don’t need to wear hats. We have nothing to hide."

Temer has refuted the corruption charges filed against him by the country’s chief prosecutor as fiction, saying there’s no evidence behind the accusations.

JBS is close to renegotiating about 22 billion reais of debt owed to banks, people familiar told Bloomberg last week. The company agreed to make an upfront payment of 10 percent of the debt in exchange for a 12-month extension to its maturity, which currently stands at 18 months on average, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

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