At the end of 2017, the theme of “Missão Impossível” rocked an apotheotic performance by Sergio Rial, a lawyer and economics expert who was president of Santander Brasil that year, and took to the stage set up at the Allianz Parque, in São Paulo, to the applause of an arena packed with bank employees. The institution was about to celebrate the unprecedented milestone of BRL 10 billion in annual profit.
But the title of the action movie has never been more apt than at this stage in the career of the executive, who has just resigned from the presidency of Americanas SA and has communicated to the market another unprecedented number, compared to which there is no nothing to celebrate: an accounting deficit of R $ 20 billion in the balance sheet of Americanas.
Being the spokesperson for such a scandal is no trivial task, but mission impossible is still ongoing. Simultaneously with the announcement of his departure from the command of the company, the former banker presented himself as advisor to the “reference shareholders” of Americanas – namely the founders of 3G Capital, the trio of billionaires Jorge Paulo Lemann, Marcel Telles and Carlo Alberto Safe.
His mission, as he will later say in a video recorded for investors, would be to support “the management of the works” in the search for a “structured solution for the company”, which this Friday (13) obtained the protection of urgency against charges in court .
“The question that remains is…did Rial already know?” asks investor Pedro Menin, founding partner of Quantzed and QTZ Investimentos, in the post on social media which raises several questions about the accounting scandal.
According to sources heard from the Sheetthere is no doubt that Sergio Rial has been handpicked for the thorny task of putting out a fire in Americanas, which was already showing signs of smoke since at least last year, when the 62-year-old from Rio de Janeiro was celebrated as the new president of the ‘agency.
According to André Pimentel, partner of the consultancy firm Performa Partners, the hiring of Rial, a “banker” and not a “dealer”, already indicates a strategy for Americanas to face a crisis situation, including communication with the market and lack of credibility that the company faces from now on.
“If the crisis of credibility grows exponentially and affects suppliers (who would be reluctant to continue selling to Americans) and, worse, affects consumers, who may be afraid to buy and not receive the products, then the crisis would be total says Pimentel, who worked on the restructuring of Americanas in the late 1990s when he was at Galeazzi & Associados and, before that, worked at PwC, the current auditor of Americanas.
The partner of a career counseling, heard from Sheet on condition of anonymity, he says executives Rial’s size don’t accept an invitation to run a company without knowing exactly where they’re stepping.
Discovering an accounting scandal of this magnitude in nine days, which has been going on for at least seven years, is hardly credible, he says.
Hiring the CEO of a large company is often a slow and careful transition, she says. When dealing with someone as savvy as Rial in the financial market, he says, it’s only natural that he wants to know the numbers before making any moves, which includes knowing what happens to stocks.
The specialist recalls that Americanas executives sold shares of the company for almost R$ 212 million during the second half of last year, according to market information from Americanas itself, made public after the scandal.
“If you believe in the company so much, why did you quit?”
According to her, high-ranking executives prepare a lot before making the decision to take on a new position and research “responsibilities” (civil responsibilities of the position).
This is because Brazilian law establishes that directors are personally responsible for acts and omissions related to the management of the company, and can answer with their assets.
Perhaps for this reason Sergio Rial, if he had become aware of the Americanas accounting scandal, would have agreed to take over the company, but not to remain in the presidency.
The partner of a management consulting firm, with a long experience in retail, says she finds it “obvious” that Rial has been called to take over the position already aware of the budget problems.
For her, it is highly probable that Rial will be responsible for executing the entire debt restructuring, which according to the company can now reach R$40 billion, if creditors advance the receipts.
At the same time, recalls a retail industry source, successful executives may want to take on challenges that can make their resume more starred. But that doesn’t include seeing one of the largest retailers in the country go out of business.
In a presentation to investors at the BTG headquarters on the 12th (the date on which he also recorded a video to comment on his exit from the presidency), Rial said several times that he had “no legal obligation” to be there to clarify . In the video, he himself repeats the question he is often asked:
“Wow, Sergio, if you believe in the company, then why did you decide to quit?”
And he gives the answer: “I think the scale of what needs to be done was not necessarily what I wanted at the beginning, which is to go to Americanas and undertake a very large growth project,” he replied.
“Obviously, over the next few quarters we will continue to sell, continue to do what needs to be done, but a lot needs to happen in terms of the shareholder structure.”
The accounting scandal linked to the “advances to suppliers” operation should generate adjustments in the financial statements of recent years, as already noted by Rial herself. According to the consultants consulted by the Sheetthe adjustments tend to arrive at the bottom line of the balance sheets, the results.
The employment consultant heard from Sheet he asks where are the company’s president and director of investor relations who held these positions before Rial took office, who have not yet come to the public to comment. Both roles were held until December 31, 2022 by Miguel Gutierrez, who has led Americanas for the past 20 years.
The firm managed to prevent BTG from collecting its debts in court
This Friday (13), Rial had tough negotiations with American creditor banks which, according to the Sheetthey were outraged by the reluctance of the retailer’s major shareholders to announce a solid capitalization of the company.
BTG Pactual took Rial to provide clarifications to investors at the bank’s headquarters on Thursday (12), in an initially private and very popular event. On Friday, he sought to anticipate receiving R$1.9 billion from the company, speeding up Americanas’ filing for protection.
The retailer quickly pulled out the resource at hand: he filed a request for urgent protective injunctions with the 4th commercial court in Rio de Janeiro on Friday evening (13). With this, the company manages to avoid having its assets frozen at the request of creditors.
In practice, the provision gives Americanas a breather to study a judicial recovery request, an initiative that can be taken within 30 days, according to the Court’s decision.
The company says, however, that it “remains committed to maintaining positive talks with its creditors in order to reach an agreement beneficial to all its stakeholders” and that “the interim measure does not represent a recovery procedure”.
At the moment, tempers between Americans and creditors are very heated. “One of the great risks is the interruption of the credit line to suppliers, disbursed today by banks. I hope the banks have a balanced posture and allow current management to find a path that works for everyone. Despite the first shock of displeasure,” Rial said in the video aimed at investors.
“I ask for patience.”
For analysts interviewed by SheetAmericanas’ key shareholders, the trio at the head of 3G Capital, believed that if the request for patience came from a banker, creditors would be more willing to comply.
The most recent acts of the crisis still do not allow us to say whether they were right.
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