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Panama regulators take over Espirito Santo unit, citing cash woes

PANAMA CITY, July 18 (Reuters) - Panamanian banking supervisors said on Friday they had taken control of ES Bank SA, a small unit of Portugal's Espirito Santo, which is facing intense scrutiny from investors and regulators over revelations of irregularities at related companies.

Banco Espirito Santo, Portugal's largest-listed lender, is under investigation after disclosing financial irregularities at firms owned by the Espirito Santo family, the bank's largest shareholder, which have raised the possibility of destabilizing losses at the bank, too.

Panamanian regulators took over Espirito Santo's Panamanian subsidiary to "protect and defend the interests of depositors and creditors of the institution, given the lack of liquidity and potential insolvency," they said in a statement.

The takeover of the bank, which was granted a foreign license in 2001, will last 30 days and will not affect the Panamanian financial system, regulators added.

Reuters was not immediately able to reach ES Bank, which had listed assets of $793 million and liabilities of $711 million, according to a December 2013 financial statement posted on its website.

(Reporting by Eli Moreno, Writing by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Ken Wills)