Luxembourg launches probe into Espirito Santo holding companies
By Robert-Jan Bartunek and Andrei Khalip
BRUSSELS/LISBON (Reuters) - Luxembourg's justice authorities have begun an investigation into three holding companies of Portugal's Espirito Santo banking family, the biggest shareholder in Portugal's largest listed bank which bears their name.
A spokesman for the Luxembourg authorities said the investigation was launched on May 22 over alleged breaches of company law by the three Luxembourg-registered firms. He declined to give any further details about the investigation.
"The judge is investigating this now and during this time no further statements can be made," the judicial spokesman said.
Shares of Banco Espirito Santo (BES) BES.LS and ESFG ESF.LS - the only listed holding company of the three - as well as Portugal Telecom PTC.LS, which acknowledged it had bought debt from another family holding company, fell on Friday.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Maria Luis Albuquerque said the bank was well-capitalised and the government saw no threat to financial stability and public accounts.
"The government has no information that would lead us to believe that we have potential financial instability problems, despite a lot of noise," she told a parliamentary committee.
The three Luxembourg registered companies targeted by authorities there - Espirito Santo International SA, Espirito Santo Control SA and Espirito Santo Financial Group SA (ESFG) - are all part of a cascading ownership structure. BES had warned last month of "material irregularities" at one of the companies, Espirito Santo International.
Nobody was immediately available to comment at the companies when contacted by Reuters. Continuación...