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More Merkur Shares Up for Grabs

Ljubljana, 09 October (STA) - Three more creditors of management buyout vehicle Merfin published on Saturday a call for bids for their confiscated stakes in troubled hardware retailer Merkur. A public auction for a combined 13.8% stake in Merkur will be held by cement maker Salonit Anhovo, brokerage GBD, and telecommunications company Iskratel on 19 October.

The three companies are following the example of Hypo Alpe Adria Bank International, which also got its shares as collateral for a loan to Merfin, the company set up by Merkur managers that carried out a leveraged buyout and saddled the company with debt.

While the starting prize set by Salonit, GDB and Iskratel is much lower than that of Hypo - EUR 8.4m for 13.8% compared to the EUR 38m that Hypo wants for its 25% - the current situation of Merkur makes it very unlikely that the shares will be sold, meaning that the sellers are the most likely final owner.

Merkur declared insolvency on 16 September. The management promised a restructuring plan, but since it was unlikely to get much-needed fresh capital, it said debt restructuring involving the conversion of claims to stock was the likelier scenario.

The recovery suffered a setback when interim manager Bojan Knuplez died of cardiac arrest on 24 September, but a new interim chairman, Blaz Pesjak, was named five days later.

The expropriation of the Merfin managers, who got ahold of 58% in Merkur with the help of loans insured with the retailer's shares, is allegedly a key point in the talks between Merkur, creditors, owners and suppliers with respect to restructuring.

With the conversion of claims to stock playing an important role, the value of Merkur's shares has become the apple of discord among owners and creditors, since this will determined the future ownership structure.

It is still not entirely clear who else is on the list of Merfin's creditors with a claim to Merkur's shares. Reports have been mentioning logistics company Viator&Vektor, furniture maker Alpos, and industrial conglomerate Hidria.

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