Russia’s Sberbank, a key shareholder in the Croatian Agrokor conglomerate, has already begun to receive bids for the purchase of its shares in the Agrokor conglomerate which is emerging from debt crisis, Sberbank’s Maxim Poletayev told Reuters on Wednesday. Recall that the High Commercial Court in October confirmed a settlement by creditors which included exchanging the bank’s debt with shares in the conglomerate and Sberbank could soon be the largest shareholder with a 39.2% stake. Poletayev said that Sberbank is receiving bids for the purchase of Agrokor’s shares from various funds in the USA, Canada and Great Britain, adding that all will depend on the price which was why the bank is studying them. He also said that Sberbank is also in talks with a number of investors who might participate in refinancing the super-senior debt. The company has EUR1.1bn in the super-senior loan, with Knighthead, Russia’s second largest bank VTB, and Italy’s UniCredit among its debtors, Poletayev said. The super-senior debt would bear an annual rate of 10% starting from January, Poletayev also said, adding that replacing this loan with another one is a task of the next couple of months and that the banks have receive a couple of proposals. Yet, he said that Sberbank and VTB would not take part in any new loans for the company.
In the meantime, as part of the restructuring plan, Sberbank wants Agrokor to focus on three areas: retail, food and agriculture, Poletayev said and added that the restructuring plan should be completed by the end of the year. According to Poletayev, future shareholders would like to see the current emergency administrator in the conglomerate, Fabris Perusko, and his assistant Irena Weber at the helm of Agrokor and noted that their contracts are currently being negotiated. Poletayev would not rule out selling off Agrokor’s property, adding that Agrokor’s Mercator brand that includes 985 stores spread across Slovenia, Serbia, BiH and Montenegro needs to reduce its debt of some EUR738m as of September. According to Poletayev, Mercator will divest a number of non-core assets and sell real estate assets worth EUR116m, a deal that has been already approved by its management. Poletayev also said that Agrokor’s chain in Bosnia was not profitable enough and that he believed the best option would be to redirect investments to Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.