SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Asset sales by J&F Investimentos SA are tied to the approval of a leniency deal with Brazilian authorities, giving buyers a cushion from a potential legal backlash against the billionaire family that runs the group, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday.
Buyers have required full approval of J&F’s 10.3 billion-real ($3.3 billion) leniency deal at two different courts to finalize the purchase of several units, the people said. The Batista family, which owns J&F, signed plea bargain and leniency deals in May when they confessed to running a political bribery ring in Brazil.
This week, Prosecutor-General Rodrigo Janot said Joesley Batista, one of J&F’s owners, seemed to have inadvertently recorded a four-hour conversation mentioning politicians, prosecutors and Supreme Court justices involved in possible crimes not mentioned in the plea deal.
Janot said benefits obtained by Joesley Batista, his older brother, Wesley, and other executives in their plea deals - including immunity from prosecution - could be partially revoked. Still, a revision of individual plea deals would have little impact on the company’s leniency accord, said the people.
“You could see some kind of delay in the conclusion of the deals but not a reversal - that would be odd,” said one of the people, requesting anonymity because the matter remains private.
A spokesman for J&F declined to comment. Janot’s office did not comment.
One of the people said that J&F’s 3.5 billion-real sale of a controlling stake in Havaianas flip flop maker Alpargatas SA (ALPA4.SA) can be concluded only once the leniency deal has been given the final nod by federal prosecutors and a criminal court.
Both offices - the Fifth Chamber of the Federal Prosecution Service (MPF) and the 11th district court of Brasilia - declined to comment on the J&F leniency accord. The chamber at the MPF approved terms of the J&F leniency deal last month.
Similar clauses were included in the contracts governing J&F’s sales of Vigor Alimentos SA to Mexico’s Grupo Lala SAB de CV (LALAB.MX), and Eldorado Brasil Celulose SA’s to Netherlands-based Paper Excellence BV, the people added.
By the time the three divestitures are concluded, J&F will have raised an estimated 14 billion reais, one of the people said. The brothers will use proceeds from the deals to repay loans to a state-controlled lender and pay the leniency fine - the world’s biggest to date.
In their plea deal, the Batistas confessed to bribing 1,893 politicians and delivered to prosecutors a recording of President Michel Temer discussing hush payments to a possible witness in a graft probe. Temer has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
The plea bargain and leniency deals sparked anger in Brazil over what many saw as lax penalties and a lack of transparency. Many Brazilians questioned the plea deal for allowing the Batista brothers to avoid jail time.
Preferred shares of Alpargatas (ALPA4.SA) fell for the first day in four on Wednesday, shedding 0.5 percent to 13.93 reais. The decline pared back this year’s gains in the stock to 41 percent.
Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by Frances Kerry