The murder of Edmond J. Safra, the largest shareholder in Republic New York Corp., should not disrupt HSBC's plan to buy it, say bankers and lawyers familiar with the deal.
Mr. Safra, killed in an attack on his Monaco penthouse Friday morning, had been expected to help smooth Republic's transition when HSBC Holdings PLC completed its $9.85 billion acquisition at yearend.
It was unclear how long Mr. Safra had intended to stay on after the deal closed. There was no employment contract between HSBC and Mr. Safra, a source close to the London-based banking company said.
Such a contract could have given HSBC grounds to walk away from the deal, if the bank chose to do so.
The source said that any contract signed by Mr. Safra, including the one to sell his shares in Republic to HSBC, will remain obligations of his estate.
So far, both Republic and HSBC officials say they expect to complete plans to close the deal by Dec. 31. Republic shareholders have already approved the deal. HSBC is now waiting for Federal Reserve Board approval, which is to be discussed today.
Still, immediate reaction in London to the news of Mr. Safra's killing sent HSBC's stock price tumbling. Its shares dropped 2%, to $13.12, before rebounding by the close to $12.82.
Mr. Safra's death at the hands of hooded intruders is the second major crisis for Republic since its deal with HSBC was announced eight months ago. In early November, the deal hit a bump after one of Republic's clients, Princeton Economics International Inc., was alleged to have committed securities fraud on Japanese customers.
Mr. Safra was instrumental in ensuring that HSBC followed through on its merger intentions, despite these difficulties, agreeing to be paid less than other shareholders for his stake. This cut Republic's pricetag from the originally agreed on sum of $10.3 billion.
A London-based analyst said HSBC is probably not looking for a way out. "This was a very positive transaction for HSBC, and they have shown that by their willingness to proceed with the transaction despite the difficulties they went through," the analyst said.
If HSBC did want to abandon the deal, the other legal justification available would be to prove that Mr. Safra's death caused a significant, measurable lack of business.