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Istrabenz Sells Postojna Cave Operator to Local Company

Postojna, 16 July (STA) - Istrabenz Turizem, part of the debt-ridden Istrabenz holding, has sold its subsidiary Turizem Kras, which holds the license for Postojna Cave, one of biggest tourist attractions in Slovenia, to Postojna-based company Batagel & CO in a EUR 12.4m deal.

The contract to this effect was signed by representatives of the two companies on Friday.

With the deal Batagel will assume the remaining 18 years on the license for operating with the large cave system and the Predjamski grad castle, which together generate around 650,000 visits.

The sale is part of Istrabenz's efforts to offload assets in a bid to reduce its debt. It recently sold off food company Droga Kolinska, in a transaction that will raise around EUR 240m for the troubled holding.

Batagel & Co, which is best known for its vacuum cleaners, but has moved into property development in recent years, was one of five bidders for Turizem Kras.

The others included the Postojna municipality, FMR, Kolosej from Ljubljana and Italian company KB 1909. The latter subsequently withdrew its bid.

Marjan Batagelj of Batagel & CO told STA that his company was ecstatic over the acquisition. "We have acquired a good company, with strong operations."

In a joint statement, both the seller and buyer expressed satisfaction with the fact the management Postojna Cave would remain in Slovenian hands.

The selection of Batagel was also welcomed by the Postojna municipality, which despite having lost out in the bidding was happy to see a local company take control of the municipality's crown jewel.

"This creates the right conditions for the development of tourism - not only in Postojna and Pivka, but in the wider region," said Postojna Mayor Jernej Verbic.

Also happy are members of a civil initiative which have lobbied to keep Turizem Kras in Slovenian hands. Head of the 23 April group, Jerko Cehovin, said the initiative would continue to lobby for Postojnska jama to be made into a landscape park.

The group was established after it was revealed that foreign buyers were interested in acquiring Turizem Kras. The lobbying prompted the government to attach caveats to the license for Postojna Cave under which the the concessionaire would have to seek the government's consent in case of major changes in the company.

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