Slovenian Banks Agree to Sell Majority Stake in Mercator

Slovenian banks, inlcuding Nova Ljubljanska Banka d.d. and Nova Kreditna Banka Maribor d.d., agreed to sell more than 50 percent of Mercator Poslovni Sistem (MELR) d.d., the largest supermarket chain in the Balkans as they seek to dispose of assets and strengthen their capital.

Signatories include lenders Abanka Vipa d.d., Banka Celje d.d., Gorenjska Banka d.d., the Slovenian unit of Austria’s Hypo Alpe-Adria Bank d.d., financial group NFD Holding d.d. and Pivovarna Lasko Group d.d., the single largest investor in Mercator, Nova Ljubljanska said in an e-mailed statement today.

Banks in Slovenia are seeking to sell assets and improve their capital base which is still under strain from the impact of the worst recession in two decades. The country’s three largest lenders, Nova Ljubljanska, Nova Kreditna and Abanka had their deposit and debt ratings cut by Moody’s Investors Service on June 8 amid concern over rising bad loans, especially from the construction industry.

Pivovarna Lasko (PILR), which in May rejected an offer from Agrokor d.d., Mercator’s Croatian rival for a 23 percent stake in the Slovenian company, also needs to sell assets to repay debt of about 400 million euros ($571 million) this year, according to its chief executive officer Dusan Zorko.

The sale also attracted bids from private equity groups Mid Europa Partners Ltd. and Warburg Pincus LLC.

To contact the reporter on this story: Boris Cerni in Ljubljana at bcerni@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

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