This article originally appeared in Business Insider
How flattering to the pride of man to think that the stars on their courses watch over him, and typify, by their movements and aspects, the joys or the sorrows that await him! He, in less proportion to the universe than the all-but invisible insects that feed in myriads on a summer’s leaf are to this great globe itself, fondly imagines that eternal worlds were chiefly created to prognosticate his fate.
– Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
Eike Battista is not having a good year. In fact, it might be fair to say that the Brazilian entrepreneur is having perhaps one of the most horrendous years of wealth destruction on record. In little more than a year Batista’s fortune has plummeted by over $30 billion, his support among Brazilian politicians has evaporated, and his creditors have gone from enthusiastically backing his endeavors to nervously eyeing their collateral.
For those unfamiliar with the new poster boy for emerging markets euphoria gone horribly wrong, look no further than the recent Bloomberg Businessweek article by authors Juan Pablo Spinetto, Peter Millard, and Ken Wells. Their reporting details all the usual elements in these situations, with a few interesting wrinkles:
- The Batista empire benefited from a compelling story that investors desperately wanted to believe. With a network of companies focused on natural resources and based in Brazil, Batista had a need for capital at exactly the point in time when institutional investors were looking for investment opportunities emerging markets.
- OGX, an energy exploration and production company founded by Batista in 2007, bid aggressively (in some cases offering bids double that of its competitors) for offshore oil leases.
- Batitsa had the dangerous combination of being a famously hands-off manager who was nevertheless relentlessly optimistic about his ventures. Over time his direct reports came to avoid bringing him bad news, which may have only speeded the decline of Batista’s empire.
The focus of Eike Batista these days is on preserving some value, as he struggles to restructure the debt of his various companies. News that mining company MMX had reached an agreement to sell a controlling stake in a Brazilian iron-ore port sent the stock up 8 percent for the day, though investors have still suffered a 76 percent decline in 2013. This marks only the latest in a series of transactions aimed at preserving something of the Batista empire, though the heavy debt burden of these companies suggests that preserving any equity value may be a lost cause (see articles here and here).
About the Author
David Johnson (@TurnaroundDavid) is Founder and Managing Partner of Abraxas Group, a boutique advisory firm focused on providing transformational leadership to middle market companies in transition. Over the course of his career David has served as financial advisor and interim executive to dozens of middle market companies. David is also a recognized thought leader on the topics of business transformation, change management, interim leadership, restructuring, turnaround, and value creation. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.