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Publisher Delo to Be Put up for Sale in November (adds)

Ljubljana, 15 October (STA) - Beverage group Pivovarna Lasko will put wholly-owned newspaper publisher Delo up for sale at the end of November, Lasko boss Dusan Zorko said on Friday.

The disposal has been in the making for months and the statement comes just two weeks after the supervisory board of Lasko ordered management to sell non-core businesses.

In the short term the group must reprogram EUR 300m of its EUR 450m debt but loans are not yet nearing maturity, said Zorko, caught by chance by reporters in Ljubljana who were waiting for a public auction of shares of hardware retailer Merkur.

Lasko and its subsidiaries Radenska and Firma Del own 100% of Delo stock. The company had in effect been forced into the sale by banks, which have been pushing it to pay down its huge debt burden.

Delo chairman Jurij Giacomelli said that the move comes as no surprise, as Zorko announced it already in July. "The preparations are obviously already at a stage where Zorko was able to speak about a more concrete time frame," he said, adding he expected that this would bring no changes for Delo.

"The sale will not influence Delo's operations in any way. The company is operating in line with the adopted annual business plan and strategy," he explained.

Lasko published a takeover bid for Delo in early 2007 after having acquired a significant stake before. The takeover bid valued Delo at EUR 90m.

Delo is the leading newspaper firm in the country. It publishes the flagship daily Delo as well as the no. 1 tabloid Slovenske novice, Sunday magazine Nedelo and cultural fortnightly Pogledi.

It had a net loss of EUR 11.5m in 2009 on sales that dropped by a tenth to EUR 53.7m.

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