(Updates with more quotes, details)
LISBON, March 7 The sale of Portugal's Novo
Banco should be concluded in coming weeks after exclusive
negotiations with U.S. private equity firm Lone Star, Finance
Minister Mario Centeno said on Tuesday.
Portugal has agreed with European authorities to sell Novo
Banco, which was carved out of Banco Espirito Santo after its
2014 collapse, by August.
"The expectation that exists is that this process runs its
course in coming weeks," Centeno told journalists when asked if
the sale would be concluded on March 17. "This is a natural
process which will be concluded in coming weeks."
Newspaper Publico reported on Tuesday that the sale of Novo
Banco now only depended on the approval of the European Central
Bank and that a final agreement was likely on March 17.
But Centeno said negotiations do not include the ECB alone
and that "other actors are also relevant at this point in the
The Bank of Portugal started a final round of negotiations
with Lone Star last month to flesh out the terms of the
potential sale of Novo Banco, which received an injection of 3.9
billion euros in public funds in 2014.
The first attempt to sell failed in 2015 after the state
considered bids too low.
Centeno said "the conclusion of this negotiating process is
extremely important for the country and its financial system."
The government had previously said Lone Star had set
conditions on its bid which could have an impact on public
accounts, which the state was seeking to minimise through
(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; Writing by Axel Bugge; Editing
by Catherine Evans)