* Bondholders bring case against Ukraine’s PrivatBank
* PrivatBank has 28 days to make initial response
* Adds to growing list of cases over bank nationalisation (Adds detail, background, quotes)
By Marc Jones
LONDON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - International bondholders have brought two claims worth a combined $375 million plus interest against Ukraine’s now state-controlled PrivatBank in the London Court of International Arbitration, a lawyer for the group told Reuters.
Ukraine’s government took over PrivatBank, the country’s largest lender, late last year after what were described as risky lending practices left the bank with a capital shortfall of around $5.65 billion.
The move was supported by Ukraine’s western backers, including the International Monetary Fund. But some of Privatbank’s creditors have protested the decision, which saw a total of $555 million worth of Eurobonds converted into equity.
Some of those creditors argue the process was forced through without any attempt to restructure the bonds first. Such a restructuring would normally be tried, they say, and would have inflicted less damage on bond holders.
A lawyer from law firm Dechert LLP said the claim was formally filed with the London court on November 8 and that PrivatBank had 28 days to deliver an initial response.
PrivatBank and Ukraine’s Finance Ministry would not comment on the case, while its central bank did not immediately provide a comment.
The case is being brought on behalf of all bondholders of two “senior” PrivatBank bonds which are worth $200 and $175 respectively. It is in the name of Madison Pacific, which replaced Deutsche Bank earlier this year as the trustee for the bonds.
On top of the headline $375 million claim, interest payments will be added if the claim is successful.
The case adds to a list of lawsuits PrivatBank and Ukraine’s government are now facing.
The lender’s wealthy former co-owner, Ihor Kolomoisky, has already filed at least two lawsuits in Ukraine, according to court registers.
One is against Ukraine’s central bank, the Kiev government and other institutions, challenging the decision to declare PrivatBank insolvent.
The other is against the central bank and PrivatBank, demanding the cancellation of a refinancing loan agreement that had been signed with his personal guarantee. Kolomoisky has no links to the case just launched.
The situation has also dragged in global accountancy firm PwC, formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Kiev withdrew PwC’s right to audit Ukrainian banks in July as punishment for not flagging risky lending practices. The government said the bulk of the loans PrivatBank made were to companies with close ties to shareholders like Kolomoisky . (Reporting by Marc Jones; editing by Karin Strohecker)