The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Super Fund still confident on Portuguese debt recovery

Super Fund chief executive Adrian Orr.
Super Fund chief executive Adrian Orr.

The New Zealand Super Fund remains confident that losses from its ill-fated Portuguese excursion will be reclaimed, although litigation is proceeding at a "glacial" pace, says chief executive Adrian Orr.

The UK Commercial Court ruled last year that the debt recovery case filed by the New Zealand fund and others against Portugal's Novo Banco could be heard in an English court.

However, that decision has been appealed by the Bank of Portugal, the country's central bank, which wants the case to take place in Portugal, Orr said.

He said he hoped a final decision on the jurisdiction would be made this year.

"The [hearing] has happened and we're waiting for the three judges to opine," Orr said.

The case relates to a US$150 million ($206m) loan - part of a US$784m credit package arranged by Goldman Sachs through its Oak Finance vehicle - the Super Fund provided to Portugal's Banco Espirito (BES) shortly before it collapsed in 2014.

The Bank of Portugal then split BES in two, with one part (Novo Banco) holding the good assets and the toxic assets placed in the other "bad bank".

The Oak Finance loan became stranded in the so-called "bad bank" - effectively wiping out the investment - following a retrospective law change by the Bank of Portugal that deemed Oak Finance a related party.

Orr said he remained optimistic the Super Fund would recover the loan, which has been written off.

"The day we aren't is the day we'll step away from the court case," he said.

Orr said the Super Fund's case had been strengthened after the Bank of Portugal "went and did the same thing" to another group of investors.

"So they've got another battle," he said. "The Portuguese banking system is in real shtook, in part because of these activities."

Separate proceedings have been filed in Portugal against the Bank of Portugal, challenging its decision not to transfer the Oak Finance loan from BES to Novo Banco.

The Super Fund, which sat at $31.4 billion last month, reported a 1.89 per cent return for the year to June 30 on Wednesday.

- NZ Herald

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