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Lasko to Reduce Debt with Disposals

Lasko, 21 December (STA) - Beverage group Pivovarna Lasko plans to reduce debt by selling off non-core investments in retailer Mercator and newspaper publisher Delo, and disposing of fruit juice subsidiary Fructal, says the company's strategy for 2011 adopted by the supervisory board on Monday.

The aim is to reduce debt to EUR 160m by the end of next year from over EUR 440m in late September.

Delo has already been put up for sale in an international tender and the 23.3% stake in Mercator will be accelerated.

The strategy suggests Fructal, a core part of the drinks group, will be sold by the second half of next year.

Lasko plans to raise sales revenues by 6.2% to EUR 240m, with pre-tax profit (EBITDA) at EUR 54.2m.

In the first nine months of this year Lasko saw sales shrink by 6.5% year-on-year to EUR 239.9m. Net profit nearly halved to EUR 10m.

The rise in revenue is supposed to be achieved with higher volume sales, which are set to increase by 10% to 4.5 million hectolitres.

Lasko's volume sames have been declining, which the company blames on higher taxes (beer) and lower living standards (bottled water).

Beer sales are projected to rise by 8.6% next year and water by nearly a fifth.

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