António Ramalho leaves Novobanco’s leadership

  • ECO News e Lusa
  • 31 March 2022

Novobanco's executive chairman announced at the General and Supervisory Board that he plans to resign in August.

António Ramalho will leave the executive presidency of Portuguese bank Novobanco in August, the bank announced on Thursday in a statement to the market.

According to the bank, António Ramalho “communicated today to the General and Supervisory Board his intention to leave his current executive functions in August and support the transition process for his successor”.

Also, according to the statement, “António Ramalho believes this is the right time to announce his desire to leave the position he assumed about six years ago,” after making the bank profitable, cleaning up its balance sheet, completing the restructuring plan agreed with the European Commission, launching a new brand, new business model, among others, considering that now is “the time to pass the baton to a new executive chairman who will lead the bank into the future.”

Quoted in a statement, the chairman of the General and Supervisory Board, Byron Haynes, said he wanted to “thank António Ramalho for his unparalleled leadership, his dedication and his contribution to ensuring the long-term viability” of the bank,

For his part, António Ramalho said, cited in the statement, that it was a “privilege” to have had the “possibility of leading a large team in a unique and unrepeatable process, in an adverse environment and in whose success few believed, preserving a systemic bank, thousands of jobs and a countless number of companies, and thus the normal functioning of the Portuguese economy.

Novobanco’s statement also said that António Ramalho would step down from leadership at the beginning of August, after the presentation of the first half accounts, “to ensure a smooth transition without any disturbance.

As for his successor, Novobanco said that the competent bodies will now launch the necessary procedures and that “their conclusions will be announced in due course, as soon as the process is concluded.

António Ramalho came to the leadership of Novobanco in August 2016 (succeeding Eduardo Stock da Cunha) and remained even after the purchase of 75% of Novobanco by US investment fund Lone Star in 2017.

Since then, among several controversies, he has been the face of the defence of the bank’s use of the money from the capitalisation mechanism agreed in that purchase. So far, Novobanco has already consumed €3,405 million of public money under that agreement, out of the maximum possible €3,890 million.

Ramalho also took a hand in Novobanco’s restructuring process, including the departure of thousands of workers.

In January, the relationship between Novobanco’s CEO and former Benfica president and Novobanco debtor Luís Filipe Vieira was questioned, and doubts were raised about António Ramalho’s suitability.

Then, telephone conversations between Ramalho and former Novobanco board member Vítor Fernandes (current chairman of SIBS) were leaked in the press, in which Novobanco’s executive chairman said he was scheduling a meeting with the then Benfica chairman to “prepare” him for the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into Novobanco.

Since then, António Ramalho has said that his suitability “is assessed on an ongoing basis” and that he should make no further comment.

Still, in early March, at a press conference, questioned on the issue that even led the European Central Bank (ECB) to investigate his relationship with Vieira, the manager said there are no photos of him with the former Benfica president. “There are no pictures of me with Luís Filipe Vieira, and there must be pictures of him with everyone,” he said.

Novobanco made profits of €184.5 million in 2021, the first year it has posted positive results since its creation in August 2014 (in the resolution of BES), compared with losses of over €1.3 billion in 2020.

When it announced the 2021 profits in March, the bank also announced that it would ask for a further capital injection of €209 million from the Bank Resolution Fund. Meanwhile, the Resolution Fund considers “no payment is due” for 2021.