Americanas’ Rial Says Billionaire Backers Fully Supported ‘course Correction’

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – The outgoing chief executive of troubled Brazilian retailer Americanas SA said on Tuesday the company’s billionaire backers gave him “unconditional support” after nearly $4 billion in accounting inconsistencies were uncovered.

Sergio Rial said that Americanas’ reference shareholders, three Brazilian billionaires who founded 3G Capital – Jorge Paulo Lemann, Carlos Alberto Sicupira and Marcel Telles – fully backed him on a “course correction” following the discovery of the accounting scandal.

Rial resigned last Wednesday, less than two weeks after taking the position, on the back of distortions he attributed to differences in accounting for the financial cost of bank loans and debt with suppliers.

Americanas, which is seen liable to repay up to 40 billion reais ($7.82 billion) in debt earlier than planned, was granted an injunction protecting it from creditors and setting a 30-day deadline for it to file for a potential bankruptcy protection.

“We reached the scenario seen in the securities filing with transparency and reliability,” Rial said after his short tenure as CEO, taking over from former CEO Miguel Gutierrez during the second half of 2022.

He is a former head of Banco Santander Brasil SA, the local unit of Spain’s Banco Santander, where he still serves as chairman of the board.

Rial left Americanas alongside chief financial officer Andre Covre, who had just joined the firm as well.

“With the initial diagnosis there was an urgent need for a course correction,” Rial added in a LinkedIn post, praising the board of directors and the reference shareholders for “the transparency and the unconditional support they gave me.”

“As for my departure, it comes from understanding the need to make room for the company to restructure itself from a starting point totally different from that I expected to find,” said the executive.

Shares in Americanas rose more than 10% on Tuesday, but were still down nearly 77% year-to-date.

($1 = 5.1180 reais)

(Reporting by Gabriel Araujo, Editing by Louise Heavens)