Brazil's EBX, Mubadala agree on new debt deal

Move seen as major step in shoring up billionaire Eike Batista's conglomerate

Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista.

Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista.

Brazil's EBX Group successfully has concluded a debt refinancing deal with Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund in a major step toward shoring up billionaire Eike Batista's conglomerate, EBX said.

A source with direct knowledge of the EBX-Mubadala accord told Reuters last week that the agreement will cut EBX's debt with the Abu Dhabi fund, Mubadala Development Co, by more than 25 percent to between $1.6-$1.7bn. The debt was valued at $2.3bn recently, the source said.

Under terms of the refinancing accord, EBX repaid a "significant part of Mubadala's initial investment" and reworked contractual aspects, giving Mubadala an additional cushion on its investment in EBX, the company, based in Rio de Janeiro, said.

Batista sold a 5.6 percent stake in EBX in March 2012 for $2bn. The deal underlined the appeal that his integrated empire of mining, energy and logistics companies has for Asian and Middle Eastern investors.

But failure to meet output targets, delays in turning his start-ups into revenue-producing projects, rising debt and a slowdown in China fanned concerns over the sustainability of EBX's business model, causing share prices to plunge.

With his own stock pledged against loans used to support the companies, Batista saw many of his guarantees to bankers and investors become nearly worthless.

The refinancing with the sovereign wealth fund is part of the resulting restructuring. Batista, 56, aims to cut debt and alleviate other problems that have slashed more than $20bn from his holdings in the group.

In early 2012, the market value of the six publicly traded companies in EBX was about $60 billion, or about five times its estimated worth now.

"EBX and Mubadala will remain engaged in discussions linked to the final steps of EBX's restructuring efforts, as well as the development of the group's businesses," EBX said in the statement. "The new accord reinforces the stability of Grupo EBX."

A report by Bloomberg News in December said Batista had to pledge additional stakes in his companies that shields Mubadala from the selloff in his publicly traded companies. Shares in ailing oil producer OGX Petróleo e Gás Participações SA are down almost 90 percent this year.

Additional steps to restructure the conglomerate's debt should take several months, the source said, adding that the biggest challenge will be reorganizing ailing oil producer OGX.

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