“Exclusive” sales deal over Novo Banco rules out Brit-based “gazumping”

On paper it looks almost too good to be true. After months of tortuous negotiations with comparatively little coming to the table, a British-based Portuguese-owned firm has appeared on the horizon, offering as much as €4 billion for Novo Banco – the ‘good bank’ that rose from BES’ toxic ashes and which the Bank of Portugal is desperate to sell as quickly and painlessly as possible.

But for reasons of banking etiquette (which have been absent from previous dealings at the bank, particularly when BdP opted for a controversial bond dump just before Christmas a couple of years ago), the extraordinarily positive offer from Aethel Partners of London’s Berkeley Square in uptown Mayfair cannot be considered unless it aligns itself with one of the “pre-selected competitors”, explains DinheiroVivo.

Indeed, for Aethel Partner’s bid to be considered on its own merits, BdP and the government will have to accept that the second attempt at selling the embattled bank to US “vulture fund” Lone Star has been as much of a fiasco as the first – and this would simply compound institutional embarrassment without the security that Aethel’s bid is everything that it purports to be.

Explains DinheiroVivo, the “short missive of just two pages” explaining the company’s offer is “replete with numbers barely detailed”. There is the promise of “more investors” prepared to become involved, but they are “not identified”, and there is no explanation as to why Aethel has waited until now to show its interest.

Nonetheless, an offer of €4 billion is suddenly on the table – a situation pundits have always claimed could never happen in the wildest of dreams.

Predictably perhaps, neither the Bank of Portugal nor the finance ministry have been prepared to comment on this latest twist in what has to be considered the catastrophic sale of a bank that was bailed out at a cost of almost €5 billion.

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Photo: Governor of the Bank of Portugal Carlos Costa is not emerging from this situation with any prizes for efficiency or alacrity.