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Haitong sets out its stall after BESI buy

The investment banking arm of Banco Espírito Santo’s search for an investor had begun long before the shenanigans at its parent bank began to come to the surface in the summer of 2014, according to Francisco Cary, BESI’s deputy CEO and chief financial officer.

“In late 2013 we felt that the challenges our parent bank was facing meant that we would need to find an investor who would subscribe to a capital increase which would help us to continue with the international development of our business,” he explains. “Our focus from the start was on investors in the Middle East and Asia, because we felt we could give them access to business opportunities in markets where they had limited direct exposure.”

As the full extent of the mess at the holding company became more apparent, so too did the recognition that BESI needed a deep-pocketed investor prepared to take a majority 80% stake rather than a partner with a minority holding. Following the announcement of the good bank-bad bank split in August, according to Cary, it was acknowledged that a 100% sale would be necessary. 

That paved the way for BESI’s purchase by Chinese securities firm Haitong, which was concluded with astonishing speed. The tender for the 100% sale was put out at the start of November, and Haitong had signed on the dotted line by early December. “The Bank of Portugal wanted the deal to be completed by the end of the year so that it would not complicate the process of selling Novo Banco as a whole, which put added pressure on the bidders,” says Cary.

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