BNU Macau “saves” purchase of 500 Chinese ventilators by Portugal

31 March 2020

An order placed with a Chinese company for 500 hospital-grade ventilators to treat victims of Covid-19 in Portugal, was threatened by an offer from another country, but was saved at the last minute by the BNU bank in Macau, according to a source from the bank.

The intervention of the BNU, according to the source, was needed after the government of Portugal was informed by the Chinese supplier, on 22 March, that if the previously agreed payment of US$10 million  was not received in its entirety by 10 am Beijing time the following day, the order of 500 ventilators would be cancelled and the equipment sold to other destinations.

With banks closed in Portugal until the following morning, Monday, after the deadline set the supplier, it was virtually impossible to prevent the order being cancelled, according to the same source.

After considering several solutions including the government, the Agency for the Management of the Treasury and Public Debt (IGCP) and state bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD), a decision was made to make the payment ahead of time via the CGD bank in Macau, Banco Nacional Ultramarino (BNU).

That same afternoon in Portugal, already after 1 am in Macau, the chairman of CGD, Paulo Macedo, called Carlos Cid Álvares, Chief Executive of BNU, to request the bank’s help in making the advance payment by the State bank, which was immediately agreed, and the payment details were immediately sent to Macau.

At 8.30 am the following day, when banking operations were resumed at BNU in Macau, 90 minutes before the deadline established by the Chinese manufacturer, a team was already working to ensure the payment was made immediately.

According to sources from the BNU, the SWIFT codes for confirmation of the transfer were quickly issued and available approximately 60 minutes before the deadline.

“It was a joint effort (IGCP, CGD and BNU) and we had to overcome bureaucracy for that to happen,” according to a source from the bank in Macau.

Portuguese newspaper Público, which initially reported the story in Portugal, added that these confirmation codes were sent to the Portuguese embassy in Beijing, which ensured that the manufacturer received them before the deadline.

With more than 6,000 cases of people infected by Covid-19, Portugal is, like many other countries in Europe and around the world, making efforts to provide critical medical equipment to hospitals.

The ventilators, which save lives by helping the infected patients to breathe, have become particularly difficult to get hold of.

The 500 ventilators are now being sent to Portugal, to hospitals that urgently need them, because the number of cases of Covid-19 continues to increase in the country and the peak is expected to occur within the next 30 days. (macauhub)