Brazil's Libra requests bankruptcy protection

Friday, July 27, 2018

Brazilian logistics company Grupo Libra has filed for bankruptcy protection in a local court, looking to restructure 1.8bn reais (US$480mn) in debt.

The measure seeks to ensure the continuity of operations at the company's port terminals in Santos and Rio de Janeiro, according to the company.

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If the court accepts Libra's request, it will have 60 days to present a recovery plan to creditors.

Libra's main creditors are banks Itaú Unibanco, Banco do Brasil, Santander Brasil and Bradesco, which account for 1.5bn reais of the debt, a person close to the company told BNamericas, asking not to be identified.

The company was affected by the combination of Brazil's weak economy and a corruption scandal relating to certain measures approved by President Michel Temer.

Lucio Funaro, a currency broker who was arrested last year as part of the Lava Jato corruption investigation, told prosecutors that Temer had acted in favor of local port terminal operator Rodrimar, as well as Libra, Santos Brasil and pulp producer Eldorado Brasil Celulose – all firms with interests in Santos port, the busiest container port in Latin America.

Funaro also said Temer used his political influence in 2013, when he was vice president, to block a measure allowing other companies to compete in the port areas of these firms.

Libra, which was heavily affected by the economic recession in 2015 and 2016, embarked in a strategy to sell assets. But it was obligated to suspend its plans after the alleged wrongdoings emerged.

"The liquidity problem caused by the unfavorable scenario had been resolved in a debt renegotiation agreement signed at the beginning of 2017, which included the adoption of cost reduction measures, increased efficiency, and the commitment to seek partners and negotiate assets. Last year the Cabo Frio airport was sold, along with the Amazônia shipping company (CNA)," Libra said in a statement.

"Negotiations for other assets were well under way when the group was unfairly involved, in March this year, in an investigation by the federal police," it added.