July 13, 2017 / 11:54 AM / in 6 months

Brazil court clears JBS unit's sale to Minerva, paper says

SAO PAULO, July 13 (Reuters) - A Brazilian appeals court has cleared the $300 million planned sale of JBS SA’s South American meatpacking unit to rival Minerva SA, as the world’s No. 1 meatpacker copes with fallout from a corruption probe involving its controlling family, O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper said on Thursday.

In a ruling late on Wednesday, the Regional Federal Court of the 1st Region in Brasilia overturned a June 21 decision by Federal Judge Ricardo Leite blocking the deal, according to Estado. Leite alleged that JBS’s sale of plants in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay could harm a probe against the Batista family.

Leite sits on the same court that will review a leniency deal that brothers Wesley and Joesley Batista, who control JBS through holding company J&F Investimentos SA, reached with prosecutors over their participation in a massive bribery and graft scheme.

In May, Prosecutor-General Rodigo Janot reached a plea deal with both siblings, in which they agreed to turn in 1,893 politicians they bribed. A separate leniency deal between the Batistas and federal prosecutors required the family to pay a 10.3 billion-real ($3.2 billion) fine over 25 years.

Efforts to contact the court before working hours was unsuccessful. JBS did not have an immediate comment.

Their testimonies ensnared President Michel Temer, whom Joesley Batista accused of obstructing the probe. Temer, who faces a congressional vote to open an investigation against him, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

After the plea and leniency accords, the Batistas began to sell assets to help raise cash to pay a heavy debt load and the fine. They are also in talks with banks over refinancing about 18 billion reais of JBS loans maturing over the next 12 months, Reuters reported on June 7.

J&F sold control of the globally popular Havaianas flip-flop brand maker, Alpargatas SA, to the investment firms of Brazil’s most prominent banking families for 3.5 billion reais ($1.1 billion) late on Wednesday.

$1 = 3.2083 reais Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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