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NLB and Banka Celje Withdraw from Mercator Sale

Ljubljana, 15 February (STA) - The state-owned NLB bank and its subsidiary Banka Celje announced they would not sell their 15% stake in Slovenia's leading retailer Mercator. $We are not happy with the elements and conditions of the bids submitted and are suspending the sale until further notice,$ NLB told STA.

NLB's withdrawal has also been confirmed by Uros Marter, the director of consultancy Arkas, which is now left with coordinating the sale of a 21% stake in Mercator held by a consortium of six banks.

"The NLB is not happy with the bids and has withdrawn before even receiving any serious offers," Marter told STA about the decision of NLB and Banka Celje. The two are not part of the mentioned consortium but were cooperating with Arkas in selling their combined stake of 36.4%.

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

While no details have been disclosed, NLB chairman Bozo Jasovic labelled the bids "unimpressive" on Thursday, saying he did "not see much of a chance for the transaction to be successfully completed". NLB decided to withdraw on Friday.

Meanwhile, Marter stressed that the sale of 21% of the stock was proceeding normally. Arkas will compile a shortlist of the bids, following it up with due diligence enabled by the Mercator management.

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