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UniCredit Unit Still Interested in Selling Mercator Stake

March 28 (Bloomberg) -- UniCredit SpA’s Slovenian unit is still interested in selling its 8 percent stake in Mercator Poslovni Sistem d. d. after a takeover of the largest retailer in the Balkans by its Croatian competitor fell through.

“Anyone interested in Mercator, let them come to us as we are ready to sell,” France Arhar, the chief executive officer of the Slovenian unit, told reporters in Ljubljana today. “We don’t have any special wishes since we’re not an investment bank.”

Pivovarna Lasko Group d.d., Slovenia’s biggest drinks company, and domestic banks had held talks to sell their joint 52 percent stake in the store chain to Agrokor d.d., Croatia’s largest privately owned company. The sale fell through last month after Agrokor withdrew its bid that valued Mercator at 832 million euros ($1.1 billion).

Pivovarna Lasko, the biggest investor in Mercator with a 23 percent holding, is also considering to sell its stake as it needs to repay about 150 million euros of loans, STA newswire reported on Feb. 6, citing Chief Executive Officer Dusan Zorko.

Several attempts by owners to sell holdings in Mercator failed after increased opposition by Slovenian officials, including Economy Minister Radovan Zerjav, who said the sale to Agrokor would harm the Slovenian food industry. Bozo Jasovic stepped down as the chief executive officer of Nova Ljubljanska Banka d.d. in December over the state-controlled bank’s plan to sell its 11 percent stake in the retailer.

Mercator shares fell 1.5 percent to 125 euros at 2 p.m. in Ljubljana, extending their slump from a November high to 32 percent and valuing the company at 471 million euros.

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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