Business News

Lasko Keen on Selling 23.4% Stake in Mercator

Maribor, 17 February (STA) - Beverage group Pivovarna Lasko would $seriously consider$ selling its 23.4% stake in retailer Mercator if the price was EUR 195 per share, chief executive Dusan Zorko said in an interview for daily Vecer Wednesday.

Mercator is a non-core investment that Lasko is keen to offload as it attempts to reduce its EUR 450m debt burden, according to Zorko. At EUR 195, Lasko's holding would be worth about EUR 171m.

Unofficial information suggests that EUR 195 was the price that Croatian retailer Agrokor offered in bidding for a 36.4% stake of Mercator that had been put up for sale by a group of eight banks.

However, NLB, Slovenia's largest bank, said this week it would be not selling the 15% of Mercator it owns together with its subsidiary Banka Celje, saying it was unhappy with the bids.

The eight banks, which seized the shares as collateral for soured loans, had received eight non-binding bids by the 8 February deadline.

Agrokor reportedly submitted the best bid, but there are widespread fears that its takeover of Mercator - buying a stake in excess of 25% of share capital automatically triggers a takeover bid - would be bad for the Slovenian food industry.

Mercator is currently trading at around EUR 167 on the Ljubljana Stock Exchange.

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