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20th of July 2018

Economy



British Supreme Court rejects Goldman Sachs appeal vs Novo Banco

LISBON (Reuters) - Britain’s Supreme Court dismissed on Wednesday an appeal by Goldman Sachs for compensation from Portugal’s Novo Banco over a $835 million loan to Novo Banco’s bankrupt predecessor, Banco Espirito Santo (BES), which was carved up by the state in 2014.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Portuguese bank Novo Banco is seen on one of its offices in downtown Lisbon, Portugal, March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante/File Photo

The decision, announced by the court on its website, sets a precedent that could help Portugal fend off other lawsuits involving major bondholders in BES, such as Pimco and Blackrock, which have challenged similar decisions by the Portuguese central bank in 2015 not to transfer liabilities to Novo Banco.

The loan arranged by Goldman Sachs (GS.N) was extended to BES by Luxembourg-based vehicle Oak Finance in 2014, shortly before the bank went bankrupt under the weight of the debts of its founding family, and Goldman has sought compensation from Novo Banco, which took over the healthy operations of BES.

Britain’s Supreme Court said it unanimously rejected the appeal, even though the original loan agreement was governed by English law. Novo Banco declined to comment.

After the collapse of BES in August 2014, Portugal’s central bank transferred some assets and liabilities to Novo Banco, which took over BES operations after an injection of about 5 billion euros ($5.8 billion) of public funds. It was acquired last year by U.S. private equity firm Lone Star.

In December 2014, the central bank specified the Goldman Sachs loan was not eligible for the transfer and had never been transferred, to which Goldman objected.

The court said it understood “that an English court must treat the Oak liability as never having been transferred to Novo Banco. It was therefore never party to the jurisdiction clause.”

It added there were ongoing administrative law proceedings in Portugal challenging the December 2014 decision, which have not yet been resolved.

A range of other lawsuits by bondholders in BES and Novo Banco also challenge a central bank decision at the end of 2015 to transfer more than 2 billion euros of bonds from the rescued Novo Bank back to BES, which is being liquidated.

London-based hedge fund Winterbrook Capital said last week it considered several notes issued by Novo Banco to be in default as a results of the resolution measures taken by Portugal’s central bank in 2014 and 2015.

Despite the warning, Novo Banco placed 400 million euros worth of subordinated debt notes just two days later on June 29, its first issue since the rescue, to strong investor demand.

(This story corrects to million from billion in first paragraph)

Reporting by Andrei Khalip and Axel Bugge; Editing by Mark Potter

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