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Mercator Proposes Joint International Call to Key Owners

Ljubljana, 31 March (STA) - The management board of retailer Mercator has sent a letter to several key shareholders who have expressed interest in selling their stakes in recent times proposing that they examine the possibility of carrying out a sale of a majority stake together in an international procedure.

Mercator CEO Ziga Debeljak said in the letter, published on the website of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange, that the management supported the international sale of a majority stake in Mercator "with the intent of stabilising ownership structure by obtaining a suitable development-minded strategic partner".

The letter was sent to beverage group Pivovarna Lasko, which has recently carried out an international call for bids for its 23.34% stake, as well as to banks NLB, Unicredit banka Slovenija, NKBM, Gorenjska banka, Abanka, Banka Koper and Hypo Alpe-Adria.

It highlighted that in view of Lasko's effort to sell shares, it was likely that there was an interest to sell a majority stake in Mercator given that a consortium of eight banks tried to sell 36% of Mercator early last year and that the NLB bank sought to offload 11% later in the year.

"This new state has probably been noticed by several potential strategic companies - retailers from the EU - who have expressed a preliminary interest in recent weeks," Mercator CEO Ziga Debeljak said.

It said that joining forces would have the benefit of attracting several strategic investors, which would enable a competitive process of selling the majority stake that would both maximise benefits for the shareholders and enable a comparison among various strategies that would be put forward by various potential partners.

The management said it had selected financial group Societe Generale to coordinate all activities in the event of a potential international sale of a majority stake.

It has also authorised Societe Generale to carry out talks with the owners related to preparing and carrying out an international bidding process for the sale of a majority stake in Mercator.

The management added that in the case of such a sale it would enable a due diligence at Mercator. It assessed that an international procedure for selling a majority of Mercator could be wrapped up by the end of the year at the latest.

The letter comes a day after the business paper Finance said that several banks are seeking to join forces with beverage group Pivovarna Lasko to attempt to sell a combined 60% of Slovenia's biggest retailer.

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