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Mercator Poslovni Says Agrokor Is Interested in an Alliance

Mercator Poslovni Sistem d.d. of Slovenia, the largest supermarket chain in the Balkans, will start talks on an alliance with Croatian rival Agrokor d.d., which failed to acquire a minority stake last month.

Agrokor, based in Zagreb, “expressed interest in forming an alliance in retail operations and this was our intention when we bid for a minority stake,” Ivica Todoric, Agrokor’s president, wrote in a letter to Ziga Debeljak, Mercator’s chief executive officer.

The letter, published by Mercator in a statement to the Ljubljana stock exchange, was in response to an invitation by Mercator in March to form an alliance. At that point, Pivovarna Lasko Group d.d., which owns the Slovenian company, was offering a 23 percent stake.

Pivovarna Lasko rejected an offer of 221 euros ($316) per share in May because the competition regulator wouldn’t allow Lasko to dispose freely of its holding, in effect blocking the sale. Now, Lasko has formed a group with other investors, including Nova Ljubljanska Banka d.d. and Nova Kreditna Banka Maribor d.d., to sell a majority of Mercator.

Slovenian banks, which need to improve their capital positions, dented by the 2009 recession, are selling assets seized from companies unable to repay their debt. Lasko also needs to sell some businesses, to pay off 400 million euros of debt this year.

Mercator continued to rise for a third consecutive day in Ljubljana. The stock rose 1.85 euros, or 1 percent, to 178 euros at 12:49 at the Ljubljana stock exchange, the highest level since March 30. The shares have gained about 13 percent this year, giving Mercator a market value of 670 million euros.

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