Portugal's Resolution Fund to borrow 475 mln euros to inject into Novo Banco

LISBON, June 2 (Reuters) - Portugal’s Resolution Fund said it had agreed with a banking syndicate to borrow 475 million euros ($580.36 million) to shore up the capital of lender Novo Banco, which emerged from the ruins of the collapsed Banco Espirito Santo.

The loan is politically controversial as Novo Banco is 75% owned by U.S. private equity fund Lone Star and because the state-backed Resolution Fund, which has the remaining 25%, has injected 3 billion euros into the bank’s capital since 2017.

“It is a credit line of 475 million euros, which can be used by the Resolution Fund in 2021 and 2022, if necessary,” the fund’s general secretary, Joao Freitas, told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday.

He said the loan, agreed on Monday with seven Portuguese banks, matures in 2046 and has an interest rate equivalent to that of 5-year Portuguese sovereign bonds plus 15 basis points. Now, the loan interest rate is negative at -0.06%.

The government gave a green light for the loan and said last week the resolution fund would inject 429 million euros of the 475 million by year end.

The resolution fund is backed by all Portuguese banks which pay annual contributions to finance it, and it can access loans from the state and banks.

Lone Star acquired the majority stake in Novo Banco in 2017, with the sale contract stipulating that the Resolution Fund must inject up to 3.9 billion euros in case of losses on the sale of some toxic assets inherited from collapsed Banco Espirito Santo.

The injection is meant to keep the bank’s solvency ratios at the required levels.

On Monday, the bank reported quarterly profit of 70.1 million euros ($85.8 million) and a jump of 12% in net interest income, after losses running into billions of euros since its 2014 rescue.

Chief Executive Antonio Ramalho told Reuters on Tuesday that Novo Banco, finally purged of the toxic legacy it inherited from the collapsed BES, is focusing on boosting profits to increase shareholder value. ($1=0.8185 euros) (Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)