Expatica news

CORRECTED: Espirito Santo group sells private bank assets as holding put under supervision

The main shareholder of troubled Portuguese bank Banco Espirito Santo (BES) was placed in receivership on Tuesday as the parent group announced it had sold most of its Swiss-based activities.

Luxembourg’s district court in a statement said it had agreed to a Friday request from Espirito Santo International (ESI) that it be placed under “controlled management”.

Portugal has been thrown into turmoil since allegations emerged of accounting irregularities in ESI, owned by the high-profile Espirito Santo family, cast doubt on the strength of its economy.

Lisbon has admitted the crisis engulfing the giant Espirito Santo group could affect Portugal’s recovery after the country emerged from an international bailout in May.

President Anibal Cavaco Silva said the problems affecting the group “could have a certain affect on the real economy … and its creditors could be confronted with serious difficulties”.

Portuguese authorities have also said they had opened several investigations into possible criminal offences related to the group and its entities.

The Banque Privee Espirito Santo (BPES) said it had agreed to sell to Compagnie Bancaire Helvetique (CBH) its client portfolio in Portugal, Spain and Latin America.

The two banks did not reveal details of the price tag or how many clients would come under CBH’s wing.

BPES chief Jose Manuel Espirito Santo said the deal with CBH offered an “excellent solution” and that it was the best means to “defend the interests of our customers and staff”.

Philippe Cordonier, head of CBH, said the deal marked a “significant step in the development of our bank” thanks to the expansion of its geographical reach.

CBH is a relatively low-profile player in the Swiss private banking sector, which caters for ultra-wealthy clients from around the globe drawn by the Alpine country’s tradition of discretion.