Ministers of five countries optimistic about Agrokor deal


Government ministers and officials from Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro met in Bled in Slovenia to discuss the restructuring process of the indebted Croatian food and retail company Agrokor.

The company, which employs some 60,000 people in subsidiary companies in Croatia and across the region, has been taken over by state-appointed management in April according to provisions of a special law passed by the Parliament.

Government officials of five countries where Agrokor is present gathered in Bled to discuss the agreement and the future of the company.

“The crisis management still has a lot of work to do, but we have reasons to believe that the process is going forward. Clearly, the crisis management process and efforts made to maintain the stability of Agrokor’s businesses in Croatia have helped the group’s companies outside the country to keep doing business and contribute to the stability of economies in neighbouring countries,” Croatian Economy Minister, Martina Dalic, told reporters after the meeting.

The company’s crisis manager, Fabris Perusko, announced last week that a framework deal has been reached with creditors to turn their debt claims into equity, with details of the final plan to be agreed by July.

“The text of the agreement is currently being worked on, in order to define all the details and have it ready by July 10, with the goal of returning Agrokor to a normal state of doing business in Croatia, but also its subsidiary companies in neighbouring countries,” Dalic added.

The new ownership structure is expected to be dominated by Agrokor’s single largest creditor, Russia’s Sberbank which has a 1.1 billion debt claim and might get 30-40 percent ownership stake in the restructured company.

 “Nobody can get involved in the ownership shares of a privately-owned company, and what the ownership structure would eventually be will be decided by Russian banks and American hedge funds. They are not into being in this type of businesses long-term, but they will be interested in increasing the company’s value in order to get more money out of it. Will there be any offers from Serbian companies? Probably yes, for (Agrokor) subsidiaries doing business in Serbia,” Serbia’s Trade Minister Rasim Ljajic said.

Asked if he was more optimistic about Agrokor now after a framework agreement has been reached, Ljajic said yes.

“A good portion of the way (towards recovery) has been crossed, and there are many reasons top be more optimistic today compared to five or six months ago. I believe the whole story around Agrokor will be over by the end of this year,” Ljajic said.

Bosnia’s Foreign Trade Minister, Mirko Sarovic, was also optimistic, mentioning the Mercator retail chain owned by Agrokor which returned to Bosnia in late 2017.

“We hail the return of Mercator in Bosnia, that process has been successful, Mercator is a bright spot in that story. For us it is important that it regularly pays its debts to suppliers, and we can also say that Konzum (retail chain) has entered a period of stabilisation, although its payment periods to suppliers are somewhat longer. We agree with everything the Croatian government is doing, and we await the new (restructured) Agrokor,” Sarovic said.