Mercator Poslovni Sistem (MELR) d.d.’s management board, including Chief Executive Officer Ziga Debeljak, offered to step down in six months because of the disputed sale to a Balkan competitor. Its shares surged.
The resignation was first reported by the STA newswire, which cited Debeljak as saying that the main reason for the Ljubljana-based board’s departure was a disagreement with the owners about a sale to Croatia’s Agrokor d.d.
Slovenia’s largest retail chain faces “its toughest year” as the Balkan economy teeters on the brink of recession and consumers hold back their spending, Debeljak has warned. The dispute over Agrokor’s effort to take over Mercator has been plagued by opposition in Slovenia and led to the December resignation of Nova Ljubljanska Banka d.d. Chief Executive Officer Bozo Jasovic.
“Certain events in the past and current year have, due to different views on certain elements of the sale of the company to its biggest competitor, resulted in a mutually diminished level of trust between the management board and certain important shareholders,” the board said in a regulatory statement today.
Pivovarna Lasko (PILR) Group d.d., Slovenia’s biggest beverage maker, and domestic banks had held talks to sell their joint 52 percent stake in the chain to Agrokor, Croatia’s largest privately owned company. The sale fell through last month after Agrokor withdrew a bid that valued Mercator at 832 million euros ($1.11 billion).
“This means the sale process could again gain momentum,” Saso Stanovnik, head of research at brokerage Alta Invest d.d. in Ljubljana, said in a note to clients. “We hope this conflict between the management and the owners will be resolved soon, otherwise business results could further deteriorate.”
Mercator shares soared 9.6 percent to close at 137 euros today, gaining the most in a year and valuing the company at 516 million euros. The stock has still slumped 25 percent since a high in November.
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