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Serbia Halts Talks With Delhaize Until Probe Into C Market Ends

Serbia halted talks with Delhaize Group SA of Belgium on the sale of the state’s 16 percent stake in local retailer C Market until investigators complete a probe into the Serbian company’s privatization.

The authorities are investigating C Market’s original sale in 2005 on the Belgrade Stock Exchange and talks with Delhaize, the sole bidder for the state holding can be frozen for as many as 180 days, the Serbian Privatization Agency said in an e-mailed statement today.

Following criticism from the European Parliament, the government is reviewing the sale of 24 companies, including C Market, acquired by a company owned by Serbia’s richest man, Miroslav Miskovic. Miskovic was arrested in December and has been in detention as the prosecutors search for evidence to raise an indictment. He says he is innocent.

Delhaize, the owner of Food Lion supermarkets, began talks with Serbia on Feb. 8, offering 9.7 million euros ($12.7 million), or 300 euros per share, to boost its holding to more than 91 percent of C Market, one of the assets it got through the purchase of Delta Maxi Group, the country’s biggest grocery chain, for 932.5 million euros in 2011.

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