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American postpones balance sheet for the fourth time and talks about ‘sophisticated fraud’

Americanas, a retailer in judicial recovery with declared debts of R$42.5 billion, postponed for the fourth time the release of its 2022 financial statements and the review of its 2021 balance sheet.

The financial statements should be published this Monday morning (13). As of Sunday night (12), the company’s press office had confirmed the presentation.

But the retailer sent a relevant fact to the CVM (Safety Commission) in the early hours of Monday morning, informing it of the new postponement, which is now until Thursday (16).

According to the text, the company was “the victim of a sophisticated and highly orchestrated fraud, which made compiling and analyzing its historical financial statements an extremely challenging and complex task.”

Americanas says the preparation of financial statements for 2021 and 2022 has already been completed and the audit procedures for the two balance sheets are “substantially complete.” However, “it has not yet been possible to comply with the entire internal approval process provided for in the administration of the company.” The company is audited by BDO.

According to the retailer, the announcement will also be made before the market opens on the 16th. As planned for today, on Thursday, Americanas intends to hold a conference call for investors and the market in general to present the results and inform about the progress of its judicial recovery plan. Could. It also plans to provide information about the company’s strategic plan.

The event is expected to be attended by the President of Americanas, Leonardo Coelho, and the Director of Financial and Investor Relations, Camille Loyo Faria.

American postponed the publication of last year’s balance sheet four times – originally scheduled for the end of March, it was moved to May, then to the end of October, to November 13 and now to November 16.

On Wednesday (8), B3 suspended Americans from the Novo Mercado, where in principle the companies with the highest level of corporate governance are located. The company said it would file an appeal.

Fraud termed ‘accounting anomalies’

On the night of January 11 this year, Americanas released a relevant fact to the market detailing “accounting anomalies” of R$20 billion, which led to the resignation of then-CEO Sergio Rial and Chief Finance Executive Andre Couvre. Both newly joined.

On January 19, the company entered judicial recovery with declared debts of R$42.5 billion. Brazil’s largest banks are the retailer’s main creditors, and it was with them that the company began the real fight in the courts: financial institutions did not accept receiving a default from the company, by then one of the largest in the country’s retail sector. An area which had free access to credit.

In June, the company admitted fraud in its balance sheet. The report prepared by legal advisers, who have been following the US since it entered judicial recovery, revealed that the retailer’s financial statements were defrauded by the company’s previous management, which overstated its results by R$25.3 billion. This was the hypothetical accumulated profit over the last few years (the company has not yet disclosed how many years).

Americanas’ former board of directors spent decades at the company. With the exception of former CEO Miguel Gutierrez, who retired at the end of 2022 to hand the reins to Real, the other directors were removed weeks after the scandal emerged.

The activities of the retailer’s three main shareholders – the trio of billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann, Carlos Alberto Sicupira and Marcel Telles, who are partners at private equity firm 3G Capital – were also under scrutiny.

Sicupira, the company’s advisor, was appointed as the triumvirate’s representative directly involved in the day-to-day operations of the US. But, in a statement to the CVM (security commission), he said he was ‘shocked’ when he received a call from Rial to discuss the accounting scandal.

At the end of September, the CPI (Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry) which had been investigating the Americans ended its activities without finding anyone guilty.

Agreement negotiations are underway with the largest lender banks

After an intense legal battle, an agreement with the banks to put forward a judicial recovery plan is in the final stages of approval. The billionaire trio is expected to invest R$12 billion in American People, including all tranches of the R$2 billion DIP financing distributed at the time of capitalization in February. Unlike debtor-in-possession financing, DIP financing is used only in judicial recovery.

As a result, it is expected that a general meeting of creditors will be held later this year to approve the company’s judicial recovery plan, according to a statement issued by Americanas in late October.

Cumulative 2023 results through the third quarter should be presented on December 29.

The company’s operations were severely affected throughout 2023. In the first seven months of the crisis, more than 9,000 workers were laid off. The group had 33,342 employees as of Nov. 5, according to the company’s judicial administrators’ latest monthly monitoring report. In mid-January, there were 43,123 workers in the US.

Between January 19, when its judicial recovery began, and November 5, Americanas closed 121 stores – which means ceasing operations of one sales center every 2.5 days on average.

Today, the retailer has 1,759 stores. There were 1,880 in January.
The company’s customer base fell 12.4% to 42.3 million between January and September.

According to the Judicial Administrators’ monthly monitoring report sent to the CVM in early October, there are 16 eviction proceedings pending in the US due to non-payment.

(Daniel Madureira/Folhapress)

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