Friday, April 16, 2021

Groundforce deal fails because shareholder has pledged shares

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António Cotrim / Lusa

Groundforce workers concentrated with the Ministry of Infrastructure, in Lisbon

The agreement between TAP and Pasogal, a Groundforce shareholder, failed, because the shareholder’s shares are already pledged and thus cannot be given as a guarantee, an official source from the Ministry of Infrastructure told Lusa.

According to an official source from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing, the negotiations, which have been going on for several days, have failed because Alfredo Casimiro, owner of Pasogal, a company that owns 50.1% of Groundforce, cannot deliver the shares as collateral for the loan, since they are already pledged.

At stake are the negotiations for a advance of 2.05 million euros for payment of overdue wages, related to February, which would be made by TAP to Groundforce, in which Pasogal’s shares would be given as collateral.

TAP is also a shareholder in Groundforce, with 49.9% of the capital, and the main customer of the company’s handling (airport assistance), and since November it has been making advances to Groundforce, which had a huge revenue drop due to the impact of the pandemic on the aviation sector.

On Thursday, at a press conference, the Minister of Infrastructure said that the bank loan to Groundforce will be given with the approval of the State, stressing that the requirements for the expected financing will be “the same” as those imposed for the advance by TAP.

Asked about the delay in the operation, pointed out by the company as a justification for the delay in the payment of salaries, the government official said that “there was a set of information that was being requested [à empresa], but it was not being given and that delayed the process ”.

“The willingness to do this operation exists”, he said, referring that “in principle, […] the loan arrives during the month of March ”.

In a statement sent on Thursday, the private shareholder of Groundforce said that the bank loan “guaranteed by the State,” of 30 million euros from the announced Covid lines, was “already negotiated”.

At the press conference, Pedro Nuno Santos underlined that “it is necessary to understand that the demands that TAP is making to Groundforce [para o adiantamento de 2,05 milhões de euros para pagamento de salários em atraso] they are the same as the Portuguese State will require for the bank loan ”.

“What is being refused today will eventually have to be refused at the time of the bank loan, because the requirements are the same,” he added.

Pedro Nuno Santos then said that Groundforce “has cash on hand that would allow it to pay half the workers’ wages”.

“We know that there are around 1.4 million euros in cash. I may be wrong in value, but we know that there is cash on hand in this dimension, ”he said.

The Minister of Infrastructure and Housing considered “unacceptable” the proposal by Groundforce’s private shareholder (Pasogal, owned by Alfredo Casimiro) to demand to maintain control of the company in case of execution of the attachment of its participation for non-payment of the debt to TAP .

At the press conference on Thursday night, Pedro Nuno Santos explained that Groundforce’s private shareholder, Alfredo Casimiro, had accepted a pledge on the shares related to his stake (50.1%, through Pasogal) to receive an advance of around two million euros, but demanded – in case of execution – to maintain control of the handling (airport assistance), in which TAP holds 49.9% of the capital.

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