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In yesterday’s Delo, Novica Mihajlovič looks at the Balkan tycoons eyeing the sale of Agrokor. In contrast to Slovenia, where the government is coordinating activities regarding the possible purchase of Mercator, it is the entrepreneurs who have the initiative in Serbia.

Serbian candidates interested in purchasing reconstructed parts of Agrokor, are the well-known names in business circles: Miroslav Mišković from Delta Holding and the owner of the Gorenjska bank Miodrag Kostić are the first in line. Serbian government ministers seem to observe them passively at least in appearance, says Mihajlovič.

Croatian concern Agrokor is the final phase of reconstruction. After last year’s lending agreement, solvent Agrokor companies will be transferred to new companies, while the insolvent companies will transfer its assets to a newly formed company. How this transfer twill take place and how a new company will be named, will be announced soon. Since Agrokor was one of the largest employers in the entire region, the focus is also on the important players outside Croatia.

While Slovenia sees the final phase of Agrokor’s reconstruction as an opportunity to pull Mercator from the Croatian hold, and thus ensure that Slovene food makers have more space on its shelves, there are similar desires in Serbia, but they are going about it in a different way.​

After last week’s meeting of the management of Serbian Mercator-S with Serbian suppliers, attended by two ministers of the Serbian government, the participants talked about the ideal scenario whereby the consortium of regional companies would buy the entire Agrokor or part of it, because they understand the local market better than the international investment funds.

According to the Serbian media, Rasim Ljajić, the trade minister, talked about this type of scenario. In the daily Danas, however, the editorial drew a parallel between this “ideal scenario” and the failed project of combining regional retail chains Mercator, Konzum and Delta. The project, named Herkul, was going to create a commercial chain that would be able to compete with retail chains from western Europe. It was jointly designed by Miroslav Mišković as the owner of the Serbian Delta, Ivica Todorić, then the owner of the Croatian Agrokor, and Ljubljana’s current mayor Zoran Janković as the then president of Mercator’s management board.

What will be for sale?

After two years of restructuring, representatives of Agrokor’s creditors led by the Russian state bank Sberbank are expected to try and sell all their shares in in the group or individual companies. In Serbia, it’s possible that Marcator-S and food companies Diamond, Frikom, Mivela and Kikinda mill would find themselves on the sales list.

Miodrag Kostić, who owns stakes in Slovenia’s tourism and banking through his MK group, is often mentioned as one of the potential buyers of Serbian companies.  

Another potential buyer is Rodoljub Drašković, owner of Swisslion from Takovo that makes popular chocolate spread Eurocrem. He is tipped as a possible bidder for one of the food companies, Dijamant or Frikom. Serbian economists, polled by Serbia’s daily Danas, agree that Serbian buyers would be a good choice for Agrokor’s companies in the country. However, they doubt the buyers would be willing to pay the full asking price set by the sellers.

The original article was published in the Slovenian language by daily Delo and can be read here.
Adriatic Journal

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