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Sava to Consolidate through Divestment

Bled, 18 May (STA) - The new chairman of the Sava conglomerate, Matej Narat, told reporters in Bled on Wednesday that the group's EUR 400m debt called for disinvestment. Sava is regularly paying off its debts, he said, but it will have to sell some of its investment, starting with its shares in Abanka Vipa, Slovenia's third largest bank.

"Compared to other financial holdings, Sava is still extremely solid," said Narat, who took over from long-time boss Janez Bohoric at the end of March as part of a shake-up agreed last year.

The group's debts amounts to EUR 400m, EUR 280m of which is the debt of the core company, while annual revenues of the group stand at around EUR 200m, he said.

While there is no need for a capital increase, Sava must lower its debt, which grew largely on account of write-downs on its stake in troubled hardware retailer Merkur.

Currently, the Kranj-based company is already looking for a buyer for its 23.83% share in Abanka Vipa. Sales procedures are under way, but it is not clear yet when the sale will actually be carried out, the Sava boss said.

He added though that the company was not pressured into the sale at all cost, as it was also discussing refinancing of loans with the banks.

Which other investment Sava will sell is not clear at this point. It has, however, received an offer for the hotels Jadran and Trst in the lake-side resort of Bled.

Asked whether Sava was ready to sell off all its Bled-based tourist facilities, Narat said that if it got a good offer he would consider it, but that in the time of financial crisis tourist facilities did not have a very good price.

Nevertheless, the tourism division of the conglomerate significantly improved its business this year, he said.

Detailed results will be published in the Q1 report, which will be published at the end of the month, but things are starting to look up, Narat asserted.

He also underlined the importance of new investment, which are important facilitators of development.

Apart from Narat, a former executive at Slovenia's largest bank, NLB, the new Sava board also consists of Miha Resman and Franci Strajnar, while Andrej Andoljsek will join them in a month.

Narat is responsible for the company's strategy and development, Resman for finance and Strajnar for legal issues, while Andoljsek's main responsibility will be quality.

They are to present short-term measures for improvement of Sava's earning by June and an overhauled strategy by autumn.

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