Sete Brasil lenders said to tap S$1.4b state-backed fund

SAO PAULO (BLOOMBERG) - Sete Brasil's creditors, including Banco do Brasil and Itau Unibanco Holding, received 2.68 billion reais (S$938 million) from a government-backed fund and will likely tap about 1.58 billion reais more, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Sete is the biggest client of Singaporet rig builders Sembcorp Marine and Keppel. It hasn't paid either of the companies for over a year for orders worth billions of dollars.

Sete fell into financial distress after it was unable to secure long- term financing amid allegations of kickbacks to its only client, state-run oil producer Petroleo Brasileiro, or Petrobras.

The group of six creditors will soon take out the remaining balance to cover part of Sete's debt, the person said. The fund, which was created to guarantee lending for ship and oil-rig construction in Brazil, had assets of about 1.58 billion reais on Feb 12, regulatory data show. By tapping the money, the banks are essentially transferring the onus of collecting the debt to the naval fund, which is operated by state-controlled lender Caixa Economica Federal, the person said.

Banco Bradesco, Banco Santander Brasil, Caixa and Brazilian workers fund FI-FGTS are among other creditors benefiting from the move.

Sete had planned to build the world's biggest deep-water drilling fleet for Petrobras before the oil giant and the rig builder were engulfed in Brazil's biggest-ever corruption scandal.

Representatives for Itau, Bradesco, Banco do Brasil, Santander, Sete and FI-FGTS declined to comment. Caixa declined to comment saying the transaction is protected by bank secrecy.

Last month, Sete's shareholders, including Grupo BTG Pactual and Santander, discussed a plan for the rig builder to file for bankruptcy protection, the person said. Instead, creditors agreed to renew a standstill loan for four months in exchange for being able to get access to the naval fund, according to the person.