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Two Bids Received in Mercator Sale

Ljubljana, 13 May (STA) - The consortium selling a 53% stake in Slovenia's biggest retailer Mercator has received two binding bids ahead of Wednesday's deadline. Unofficial information shows the bidders to be the retailer's Croatian rival Agrokor and private equity fund Mid Europa Partners, which had both tried to take over Mercator earlier.

The consortium said on Monday that the bids were being examined and that talks on the sale would resume after Mercator Group's results for the first quarter are published, expectedly this week.

As part of the latest attempt to sell Mercator, Agrokor announced a binding bid in late April. According to documents acquired by the STA, the Croatian food conglomerate is offering EUR 110 per share, which is close to market price, but only half as much as it offered in the previous sale attempt in late 2012.

The total bid adds up to EUR 409m for the 53% stake, but Agrokor would also take over Mercator's EUR 1.1bn debt burden.

Agrokor has filed the bid in cooperation with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and financial funds Blackstone and One Equity Partners, which are to provide a EUR 500m capital injection for Agrokor if it takes over Mercator.

On the other hand, Mid Europe Partners is reportedly offering merely to recapitalise Mercator with about EUR 250m, which would dilute the stakes of the sellers, but leave them without the much needed money.

Twelve owners are taking part in the consortium in what is the ninth attempt to sell Mercator: brewer Pivovarna Union (12.33% share), bank NLB (10.75%), brewer Pivovarna Laško (8.43%), bank NKBM (5.24%), bank GB Kranj (3.80%), Prvi Faktor - Faktoring Beograd (3.35%), beverage producer Radenska (2.75%), bank Banka Koper (2.07%), bank Hypo Alpe Adria (2%), NFD 1 (1.01%), bank Banka Celje (0.88%) and NFD Holding (0.74%).

Mercator closed at EUR 104 on the Ljubljana Stock Exchange on Monday, down 5.67% from Friday's EUR 110.25.

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