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Group Wants Cooperative Formed to Acquire Mercator

Ljubljana, 05 June (STA) - A group promoting social enterprise in Slovenia has put forward a plan by which Slovenia's largest grocer, Mercator, would be acquired by consortium of buyers featuring employees, consumers, suppliers, trade unions and other interested parties which would form a cooperative.

The Slovenian Forum of Social Enterprise floated the plan on Thursday in a bid to avert a takeover by Croatian food group Agrokor, which it sees as posing a threat to jobs in Slovenia.

The Mercator group employs around 23,000 people, half of whom work in Slovenia, while another 70,000 jobs are dependent on its operations, the group said.

"This is why we must strive to find an owner who will secure its long-term development, protect jobs and its key brands, ensure that shops remain in existing locations and step up purchases of local food," it added in a statement.

Among high profile supporters of the plan, who signed an initiative, are MPs Andreja Črnak Meglič and Brane Golubović.

The group's plan would involve the formation of a cooperative which would acquire Mercator by providing fresh capital to the grocer.

Investing in the cooperative would be current employees and up to 300,000 consumers as well as other interested parties, including trade unions.

Along with cash, the Slovenian Forum of Social Enterprise proposes that Mercator's customer loyalty programme, Pika, could be used to invest in the cooperative.

After the takeover, Mercator would be transformed into a cooperative uniting workers, consumers and suppliers. Current small shareholders would also be invited to join.

The proposal comes as the takeover attempt by Agrokor enters its final weeks. The current offer of EUR 86 per share plus a EUR 200m recapitalisation, valid until 30 June, would see the Croatian group pay over EUR 400m for a 53% stake in Mercator being sold by a group of banks.

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