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Brewer Laško Sparks Avid Interest among Foreign Investors

Laško, 04 August (STA) - Several of the world's leading brewers have unofficially expressed interest to participate in equity financing planned by Pivovarna Laško, Slovenia's leading beverage company.

The interest in recapitalisation is great, the brewer confirmed for the STA on Monday without any further details about the response to the teaser with which the company is looking for a strategic partner.

According to a report in the daily Večer, as many as 31 prospective investors have picked up the paperwork for participating in the recapitalisation, in which the indebted company plans to raise at least EUR 75m.

Večer says 21 of the investors are financial firms and another ten strategic investors including the Dutch brewer Heineken, Efes Pilsen of Turkey, Denmark's Carlsberg and AB InBev of the US.

The US group also includes Belgian brewer Interbrew, which more than a decade ago fought with Laško for control of the Ljubljana-based brewer Pivovarna Union, now part of the Laško group.

The brewers' war has become a synonym for what many see as abuse of the national interest in Slovenia for private interests.

It gave Laško the leverage to build an empire through expansion in beverage and other industries that started to crumble with the onset of the economic crisis in 2008.

Left with a mountain of debt, Laško agreed a restructuring deal with creditor banks envisaging divestment and a search for a strategic partner to provide fresh capital in exchange for equity.

Laško is looking for a partner with the help of UniCredit bank through a teaser. Once the best bidder is selected, a shareholders' meeting would have to endorse the capital raising with a 75% yes-vote.

Laško chairman Dušan Zorko has said that the chosen investor would be the one offering the highest price per share and who would also be the most suitable by "all criteria".

Experts estimate that the selected investor would see its investment return in three years, considering Pivovarna Laško generates about EUR 40m in earnings before taxes and interest.

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