Six months after he was called in – presented as a shrewd banker with the brief to sell Novo Banco “in the best conditions possible, as a way of minimizing uncertainty” – Eduardo Stock da Cunha has revealed that he has no idea how much the bank is worth – and hardly even occupies himself with the question.
It is a far cry from the razzmatazz that surrounded his appointment after the glacial departure of former Novo Banco boss Vítor Bento last September.
At the time, Stock da Cunha was hailed as the white knight thundering to Novo Banco’s rescue.
Media reports explained how as soon as he completed his mission – the sale of the bank created from the ashes of BES – Stock da Cunha would be returning to his ‘proper job’ at Lloyds of London.
Six months was the time mooted that he would need. Yet here we are six months down the line, and the warning sounded by Jornal de Notícias last September is every bit as relevant as it was when Stock da Cunha took up his position.
“No one in the market believes that Novo Banco can be sold for the €4.9 million that the Resolution Fund injected into it,” wrote the paper.
Presenting the bank’s accounts for the five months between August 2014 and December – showing losses of almost €468 million – Stock da Cunha said in Lisbon this morning: “I have no idea what Novo Banco is worth but, as they say in the trade, it is worth what gets paid for it”.
They were not the words, somehow, of a white knight.
As TVI24 reports, “the president of Novo Banco added that the question of the bank’s value did not occupy “5% of his day-to-day concerns”, stressing that since he arrived at the bank, his brief had been to create value and not to think “of the sale process”.
Anyone who recalls the reason for Vítor Bento’s sudden departure will realise spin is once again at play.
Bento’s downfall, said newspapers in September, was that he was thinking in the “medium and long-term”, while the Bank of Portugal was intent on selling Novo Banco as fast as possible.
Today, Stock da Cunha concentrated on the fact that by 2016 he was expecting the bank to make a profit.
Nevertheless, he did have some more immediate upbeat news. He said: “There is a very large perception that Novo Banco is a lot more solid and stronger than it was a few months ago.”
And that was it. Any further questions “should be directed to Rua do Comércio” he told reporters – the Bank of Portugal’s address.
Elsewhere, Expresso reports Stock da Cunha reiterating that it is the Bank of Portugal (again) that has to signal the go-ahead for any compensation for the hundreds that had invested in commercial bonds at Grupo Espírito Santo.
“We are not authorised to do everything that a bank can do”, he explained. “We are running a transitional bank. Our activity is conditioned when it comes to many strategic questions and, as to the issue of commercial bonds, we do not want to compromise the bank’s solvency ratios.”
By NATASHA DONN [email protected]
Photo: Novo Banco boss Eduardo Stock da Cunha
Photo by: ANTÓNIO COTRIM/LUSA