Portuguese Banking Group's Woes Deepen
When we wrote about the troubles at Banco Espirito Santo yesterday (our post was written before European markets opened) information was still fairly scant. However, on the very same day the situation continued to escalate. Here is an excerpt from the WSJ providing further details:
Shares in the troubled Portuguese lender have been under pressure since May, when the bank disclosed that an audit ordered by Bank of Portugal into Espírito Santo International SA, the conglomerate that indirectly holds a stake in the bank, had found Espírito Santo International was in a "serious financial condition" and had uncovered accounting irregularities. But the declines mounted drastically Thursday after investors learned Espírito Santo International had delayed coupon payments relating to some short-term debt securities.
Switzerland-based Banque Privee Espírito Santo SA, which is owned by Espírito Santo Financial Group, said in an emailed statement Wednesday that Espírito Santo International has delayed the repayment of short-term debt sold to some of its clients. It said the repayment is the sole responsibility of the conglomerate. The conglomerate declined to offer a separate comment.
The bank's stock dropped more than 17% before trading in its shares was suspended. Trading in Banco Espirito Santo's controlling shareholder, Espirito Santo Financial Group SA, listed in Luxembourg and Lisbon, was also suspended earlier Thursday. The Portuguese markets regulator banned short selling, or betting against, Banco Espirito Santo shares in Friday's session.
Apparently, short selling in European bank stocks is only allowed as long as they are going up. A short selling ban never helps a stock to recover or keeps it from falling. On the contrary, it is like a red flag – it's the regulator saying “we believe only coercion can help at this point”. This is of course utter self-defeating nonsense. Here is where Banco Espirito Santo landed before trading in the stock was halted:
BES crashes another 17% before being halted – click to enlarge.
Here is more color from the WSJ – what's really amazing about all this is that the shady financing structure of the Espirito Santo group has apparently been criticized “for years”. How then can any of this have been a surprise to anyone?
It actually goes to show that the idiot population in financial markets continues to be quite large. Normally events like the 2008 crisis and the subsequent euro area debt crisis would have whittled it down significantly. Evidently that doesn't happen when all and sundry get bailed out and central banks print trillions in new money in no time at all. The fact that the stock of BES only started to fall such a short time ago (and rallied strongly previously) shows us how market participants have been lulled into a false sense of confidence by interventionist distortions.
It has been more than a year since fears about the health of a European bank rattled markets, and investors, bankers and regulators have been growing increasingly confident about the continent's financial system.
“Critics of Espírito Santo International's complex corporate structure have worried for years about the links among companies within the conglomerate. Among the concerns: whether the group's nonfinancial companies—including a hotel chain and a real-estate company—were using the bank and its customers to raise funds. Those concerns were heightened by the fact Ricardo Salgado, the chief executive of Banco Espírito Santo and a member of the influential Espírito Santo family, was also sitting on the board of Espírito Santo International. He quit the board earlier this year and is expected to resign as CEO of the bank later this month after the installation of a new management team led by outsiders, as requested by the Bank of Portugal.
Espírito Santo International had been relying heavily on selling debt to the funds marketed by its own banks, according to financial documents reviewed by the Journal last year. Over a 21-month period, it cumulatively sold more than €6 billion ($8.2 billion) in short-term debt to one of its own investment funds.
Espírito Santo International said in December it would replace the financing coming from the funds, mainly through the issuance of commercial debt. That debt was sold to private-banking customers and Portugal Telecom SGPS SA, among others. Portugal Telecom disclosed last month that it had €897 million of debt from a unit of Espírito Santo International. Banco Espírito Santo is a large Portugal Telecom shareholder.
The amount of Espírito Santo International's outstanding debt is unknown, because the company is privately owned. Banco Espírito Santo said late Thursday that exposure to Espírito Santo International entities, including Espírito Santo Financial Group, totaled €1.2 billion as of June 30, mostly in loans. Its retail clients held €853 million in debt from the entities, while institutional clients held €2 billion.
The amounts involved are of course quite small by international standards. Let us not forget that 10s of trillions in additional debt ($30 trillion in the form of debt securities alone) have been added atop the global debt pile since 2008. The problem is mainly that Espirito Santo serves as a reminder of the inherent instability of the modern monetary system. The fear is that this is tip of the iceberg stuff, which it actually is.
Related Chart Updates
Collateral damage victim Portugal Telecom also continued to get mauled on the Lisbon Stock Exchange. The stock has been in free-fall for the past two weeks:
Portugal Tele-Splat's stock continued to get creamed – click to enlarge.
Yesterday we showed the (then still small) lateral support break the PSI 20 index in Lisbon had achieved on Wednesday. It seems it was the real McCoy:
That sure looks like a vigorous third wave down by now. – click to enlarge.
Portugal's 10 year yield shot back above the 4% level on Thursday, in its biggest one day rise since the recent short term uptrend began:
Portugal, 10 year government bond yield – back above 4% – click to enlarge.
However, CDS on the sovereign debt of the “PIGS” quartet haven't really budged much, which is an indication that the worries remain localized for the moment. It is possible that the move in Portuguese bond yields is simply due to profit taking, with recent events providing the excuse.
5 yr. CDS spreads on the sovereign debt of Portugal (orange), Italy (yellow), Spain (cyan) and Greece (green) – note that the data series are differently scaled on this chart (color-coded) – Greek and Portuguese CDS spreads are not actually lower that those of Italy and Spain (the current levels are high-lighted) – click to enlarge.
Lastly, for the first time in a long time, euro basis swaps have moved a bit into negative territory again recently, after briefly hugging the zero line at the height of the recovery. It's not a big move and may not mean much, but it is definitely different from what went on before:
Three month, one year, three year and five year euro basis swaps – click to enlarge.
Readers who have missed it and want some background information can download a primer on basis swaps here.
As far as canaries in the coal mine go, this is a very small one. However, as noted previously, problems in credit markets always begin with relatively small overextended players getting into trouble.
Charts by: 4-traders.com, investing.com, bigcharts, Bloomberg
You may have noticed that our so-called “semiannual” funding drive, which started sometime in the summer if memory serves, has seamlessly segued into the winter. In fact, the year is almost over! We assure you this is not merely evidence of our chutzpa; rather, it is indicative of the fact that ad income still needs to be supplemented in order to support upkeep of the site. Naturally, the traditional benefits that can be spontaneously triggered by donations to this site remain operative regardless of the season - ranging from a boost to general well-being/happiness (inter alia featuring improved sleep & appetite), children including you in their songs, up to the likely allotment of privileges in the afterlife, etc., etc., but the Christmas season is probably an especially propitious time to cross our palms with silver. A special thank you to all readers who have already chipped in, your generosity is greatly appreciated. Regardless of that, we are honored by everybody's readership and hope we have managed to add a little value to your life.
Bitcoin address: 1DRkVzUmkGaz9xAP81us86zzxh5VMEhNke
One Response to “Fears Over Banco Espirito Santo Escalate”
Most read in the last 20 days:
- Gold Sector: Positioning and Sentiment
A Case of Botched Timing, But... When last we wrote about the gold sector in mid February, we discussed historical patterns in the HUI following breaches of its 200-day moving average from below. Given that we expected such a breach to occur relatively soon, the post turned out to be rather ill-timed. Luckily we always advise readers that we are not exactly Nostradamus (occasionally our timing is a bit better). Below is a chart of the HUI Index depicting the action since the January...
- India: The next Pakistan?
India’s Rapid Degradation This is Part XI of a series of articles (the most recent of which is linked here) in which I have provided regular updates on what started as the demonetization of 86% of India's currency. The story of demonetization and the ensuing developments were merely a vehicle for me to explore Indian institutions, culture and society. The Modimobile is making the rounds amid a flower shower. [PT] Photo credit: PTI Photo Tribal cultures face...
- The Long Run Economics of Debt Based Stimulus
Onward vs. Upward Something both unwanted and unexpected has tormented western economies in the 21st century. Gross domestic product (GDP) has moderated onward while government debt has spiked upward. Orthodox economists continue to be flummoxed by what has transpired. What happened to the miracle? The Keynesian wet dream of an unfettered fiat debt money system has been realized, and debt has been duly expanded at every opportunity. Although the fat lady has so far only...
- March to Default
Style Over Substance “May you live in interesting times,” says the ancient Chinese curse. No doubt about it, we live in interesting times. Hardly a day goes by that we’re not aghast and astounded by a series of grotesque caricatures of the world as at devolves towards vulgarity. Just this week, for instance, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters tweeted, “Get ready for impeachment.” Well, Maxine Waters is obviously right – impeaching the president is an urgent...
- Welcome to Totalitarian America, President Trump!
Trump vs. the Deep State If there had been any doubt that the land of the free and home of the brave is now a totalitarian society, the revelations that its Chief Executive Officer has been spied upon while campaigning for that office and during his brief tenure as president should now be allayed. Image adapted from the cover of “Deep State #5” - depicting an assassin from the future President Trump joins the very crowded list of opponents of the American...
- Searching for Truth
Heresy or Truth? RANCHO SANTANA, NICARAGUA – In the fifth century, Christian scholars counted 88 different heresies. Arianism. Eutychianism. Nestorianism. If there was a way to “offend” God, they had a name for it. One group of “heretics” argued that there was no such thing as “original sin.” Another denied the trinity. And another claimed Jesus was not divine. Which one had the truth? Depiction of the first Council of Ephesus in 431 AD, convened by Emperor...
- Why the 21st Century Sucks - Turtles All the Way Down
A Truly Sucky Century BALTIMORE – What an awful century! Worst we’ve ever seen. Household incomes are down. Employment is down, with 7 million people in the U.S. of working age without jobs. Productivity growth is down. GDP growth is down – to only about 0.5% per capita last year. Even life expectancies are down. Drug overdoses are up. Suicides are up. One out of every eight children lives in a family getting food stamps. One of out every eight adults takes psychoactive drugs...
- Gold and the Fed's Looming Rate Hike in March
Long Term Technical Backdrop Constructive After a challenging Q4 in 2016 in the context of rising bond yields and a stronger US dollar, gold seems to be getting its shine back in Q1. The technical picture is beginning to look a little more constructive and the “reflation trade”, spurred on further by expectations of higher infrastructure spending and tax cuts in the US, has thus far also benefited gold. From a technical perspective, there are indications that the low at $1045.40,...
- The Unstable Empire – A Campfire Tale
Campfire Tale Caesar: The Ides of March are come. Soothsayer: Ay, Caesar, but not gone. — Julius Caesar, Shakespeare GRANADA, NICARAGUA – Today, we stop the horses and circle the wagons. For 19 years, we have been rolling along, exploring, discovering. We began with the assumption that we didn’t “know” anything - so we kept our eyes open. Now we know even less. Famous people who knew nothing and were not shy to admit it: Sergeant Schultz...
- Off the Beaten Path in Mesoamerica
Greeted by Rooster There’s an endearing quality to a steadfast rooster call at the crack of dawn when overheard from a warm country farmhouse. There’s a reassuring charm that comes with the committed gallinaceous greeting of daybreak that’s particularly suited to a rural ambiance. The allure of a morning cock-a-doodle-doo somehow falls flat in all other settings. Good morning everyone! Before meteorological forecasts were available on TV and smart phones, people...
- Why Silver Went Down – Precious Metals Supply and Demand
Rumor-Mongering vs. Data The question on the lips of everyone who plans to exchange his metal for dollars—widely thought to be money—is why did silver go down? The price of silver in dollar terms dropped from about 18 bucks to about 17, or about 5 percent. Reportedly silver was already assassinated in the late 19th century... so last week they must have assassinated its corpse. [PT] Illustration taken from 'Coin's Financial School' The facile answer is...
- Systematic Trading - Unwrapping the Onion
Lumpy but Robust [ed note: this article has originally appeared at the Evil Speculator and was written by trader and ES contributor Scott. We provide a link to Scott's past articles below this post for readers who want to get more familiar with his ideas and/or any unusual terminology used in this article] One continual theme in my trading is that every time I think I have it figured out, I get punched in the face by an unexpected problem. The tendency is to go more...