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Watchdog Lifts Ban on Sale of Lasko's Stake in Mercator

Ljubljana, 11 October (STA) - The Competition Protection Office has lifted its decision to ban beverage group Pivovarna Lasko from disposing its Mercator stock, which means that Lasko can carry on with the sale of a 23.34% stake in Mercator, Pivovarna Lasko said in a press release on Tuesday.

The ban on the sale of the combined stake owned by core company Pivovarna Lasko and subsidiaries Pivovarna Union and Radenska, issued on 26 April, was suspended at the beginning of October, Lasko added.

The competition watchdog, which issued the same ban for six banks, said then its decision referred to the 2009 shareholders' meeting of Mercator at which Lasko and the banks acted in concert.

The decision came just as the beverage group was gearing up to sell the stake, with Croatian retailer Agrokor being the most prospective bidder, offering EUR 221 per share or a total of EUR 194m for the stake.

Pivovarna Lasko then opted for a joint sale of Mercator stock through a consortium of eleven owners, which hold a combined 50.03% stake in Slovenia's top grocer. The agreement on joint sale was signed on 15 June.

Non-binding bids will be collected until 17 October by London-based ING bank, which has sent notes about the bidding procedure to everyone who had expressed interest in Mercator in the past, including Agrokor.

Unofficially, bids have so far been sent only by financial firms, including Mid Europa, Warburg Pincus and TPG. Slovenian media have reported that French retail chain E.Leclerc is also interested in the majority stake of Mercator.

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