Mexico's Grupo Aleman to buy Oceanografia

By Reuters

Oct 08, 2014 11:13 PM EDT

Mexico's Grupo Aleman, which owns the airline Interjet, on Wednesday said it has agreed to buy Oceanografia, the bankrupt oil services company at the center of a loan scandal that cost Citigroup more than $500 million.

"Grupo Aleman has reached a preliminary agreement with shareholders to take over Oceanografia," said Gabriela Jimenez, head of institutional relations for the privately held family company, which also has maritime transport interests.

The deal is subject to a series of conditions, including reaching agreement with Oceanografia's creditors and other interested parties, Jimenez added.

Details such as the value of the deal still have to be worked out as part of the bankruptcy process, a person familiar with the sale said.

A spokesman for Oceanografia referred questions to the government agency that is overseeing its bankruptcy, which declined to comment.

Oceanografia was seized by Mexico's government in February after it was suspended from public contracting and accused of defrauding Citigroup's (C.N) local bank Banamex of more than $400 million, a figure that was later revised to more than $500 million.

The judge overseeing the bankruptcy proceeding this summer lifted the sanction that prevented Oceanografia from contracting with the government, paving the way for the company to restart its business.

Financial statements from 2012 show Oceanografia, which performed pipeline maintenance and owned and operated ships for Mexico's state-oil company Pemex [PEMX.UL], received 97 percent of its 12.1 billion pesos ($899.44 million) in revenue from its Pemex contracts.

The company had a fleet and equipment valued at about 16.7 billion pesos ($1.24 billion) at the end of 2012.

Mexico's attorney general told Congress last month "there was no fraud to Banamex, because the bank was working in agreement with Oceanografia." In June he said he was seeking to arrest three Banamex employees in connection with the fraud claims, but no arrests have been made.

Banamex Chief Executive Javier Arrigunaga resigned on Friday, replaced by long-time Banamex executive Ernesto Torres.

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