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Mercator Loss for 2013 Down to EUR 17M After Audit

Ljubljana, 25 April (STA) - Slovenia's biggest grocer, Mercator, made a loss of EUR 16.9m in 2013, according to audited results released by the group on Friday. The loss is almost EUR 10m smaller than in its unaudited results filing at the end of January.

A broad restructuring programme saw Mercator curb its losses last year, after reporting a loss of EUR 104m in 2012.

Revenues remained unchanged compared to the unaudited report at EUR 2.8bn, which is a 3.7% drop on 2012.

The group has made stabilising its market share and reducing its debt a priority as it seeks to respond to increased competition and an erosion in spending power due to the weak economy.

Net debt was down by 4.5% in 2013 to EUR 988m, marking the first time since 2010 that its debt was below EUR 1bn.

The group said in today's statement that it had obtained backing from all creditor banks for its plan for restructuring finances.

"Important measures aimed at restructuring operations have helped stop the negative trends from recent years," CEO Toni Balažič said in the statement.

As part of efforts to shore up operations, Mercator announced in early March extensive price cuts across all grocery lines as a means of countering growing competition from discount chains.

The cuts have affected as many as 10,000 products in stores, which is around half of Mercator's total product range.

Mercator has seen its market share drop following the arrival of discount chains to Slovenia.

The most recent figures from the company put its market share at around 31% in 2013, down from around 40% a decade earlier.

An important chunk of that market is thought to have been seized by the discount chains, which broke on to the market around 2005 and have implemented an aggressive expansion drive in recent years.

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