* Remuneration will be based on EBX’s performance
* Batista’s net worth dropped $19.4 bln last year
* Accord joins two Brazilian renowned businessmen
By Guillermo Parra-Bernal
SAO PAULO, March 6 (Reuters) - Billionaire Eike Batista, who only a few months ago was Brazil’s richest man, has turned to financier André Esteves’ investment bank for financial advisory and credit after plunging market confidence and project delays drove his fortune down almost $20 billion over the past year.
Under terms of a non-exclusive partnership unveiled on Wednesday, Esteves’ BTG Pactual Group will extend credit lines, plan long-term investments and offer financial advisory to Batista’s Grupo EBX. BTG Pactual is Latin America’s largest independent investment bank.
A strategic and financial committee led by both Batista and Esteves, also a billionaire, will meet on a weekly basis to analyze EBX’s situation. Remuneration for BTG Pactual will depend on how the mining, logistics and energy companies that comprise EBX perform.
“This will foster full alignment of interests, including with minority shareholders” of EBX-controlled companies, Batista said in a joint statement. “This partnership is above all one for the success of Brazil.”
Faced with disappointing results, missing goals and delays in some flagship projects, Batista unsuccessfully bet on measures, like a widespread management shuffle, to regain investor confidence. By teaming up with BTG Pactual, Batista signaled he is ready to change tack to preserve cash and avert a further eroding of confidence in his companies.
Last year, Batista was ranked by Forbes Magazine as the world’s seventh richest man, with a net worth of $30 billion. But a series of setbacks including the discovery of empty oil wells at his OGX Petróleo e Gas Participações SA, delays at the construction of a port in southeast Brazil and an economic downturn in the country cut his net worth by $19.4 billion.
This month, Batista was ranked the 100th richest man by the same magazine, with an estimated $10.6 billion fortune. Among his holdings, shares of OGX plunged 84 percent in the past year and those of miner MMX Mineração e Metálicos SA plummeted 69 percent in the same period.
For Esteves, who is globally known for his penchant for deals, the partnership only strengthened his reputation as Brazil’s most sought investment-banker. For a couple of decades, the mathematician-turned banker has overseen some of Brazil’s most impressive takeovers and corporate restructuring plans.
EBX has six publicly listed companies and a number of non-core investments such as an entertainment company, hotel projects and restaurants.
Speculation over a potential deal drove shares of OGX higher for first day in seven on Wednesday. Likewise, MMX rose for the first day in five.
The sell-off in shares of Batista’s companies started in the middle of last year when OGX reported disappointing output and found no oil in some wells. Other companies such as LLX Logistica SA and shipbuilder OSX Brasil SA have struggled with legal problems and delayed payments from clients.
On the other hand, the association with Batista’s Grupo EBX allows Esteves and BTG Pactual to move further into mining, logistics, energy and natural resources after venturing over the past three years into projects mostly related to Brazil’s buoyant infrastructure and consumer goods sectors.
BTG Pactual and Esteves have become symbols of Brazil’s growing economic might, competing head to head with global investment banks in a country with bustling capital markets and a promising long-term growth outlook.
Since it was formed in 2009, BTG has been in a deal-making frenzy in Brazil and abroad as Esteves, the bank’s chief executive and majority shareholder, strives to turn the firm into the largest investment bank in emerging markets by the end of the decade.
In stark contrast to the harsh reality of Batista’s listed companies, shares of BTG Pactual were trading at an all-time high as the bank’s third straight quarterly profit beat partially eased concerns that its business model is too reliant on trading-related activities for growth.
Units, a blend of common and preferred shares of BTG Pactual’s investment-banking and private equity divisions, fell 1.3 percent on Wednesday.