August 29, 2017 / 12:35 PM / a year ago

J&F hires bank to mediate BNDES talks over JBS, sources say

SAO PAULO, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Brazil's billionaire Batista family has hired BR Partners Banco de Investimento to mediate talks with a state bank that is aiming to remove Wesley Batista as chief executive of meatpacker JBS SA amid a bribery scandal that has sent its shares skidding, two people familiar with the decision said on Tuesday.

According to the people, the family's investment holding company J&F Investimentos SA has tasked BR Partners with negotiating a suspension of a Sept. 1 extraordinary assembly in which JBS investors will decide whether to oust Batista from the top post at JBS.

A May plea-bargain deal showing how the Batista family bribed several high-ranking politicians led the bank's BNDES Participações SA investment arm to seek his removal from JBS. BNDESPar blamed the family's conduct for a 28-percent plunge in the company's stock this year.

According to one of the people, J&F, through BR Partners, requested BNDESPar on Monday suspend the assembly for 90 days. The other person said the move follows BNDESPar's request to market watchdog CVM to bar the Batistas from casting a ballot in the assembly. The family owns 42 percent of JBS.

Reuters reported on Aug. 25 that BNDESPar would seek CVM permission to bar the Batistas vote in the assembly. Almost a dozen bankers, company insiders and shareholders asking to remain anonymous told Reuters they have grown skeptical of Batista's argument that he is uniquely able to complete two upcoming asset sales and list a U.S. food subsidiary next year.

BR Partners declined to comment, while a spokesman at J&F could not be immediately reached for comment. BNDESPar declined to comment.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity, because the talks are private. (Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by Alden Bentley)

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