Mercator Soars as Sale to Croatia Agrokor Nears: Ljubljana Mover

Mercator Poslovni Sistem d.d., the largest supermarket chain in the Balkans, soared the most in almost five years as its owners neared the decision to sell the company to Agrokor d.d.

Shares surged 11.05 euros, or 11.8 percent, to 105 euros at 13:05 p.m. in Ljubljana, the biggest jump since November 2008, data compiled by Bloomberg shows. Mercator jumped as much as 13.4 percent in earlier trading. Today’s trading volume represents 550 percent of the three-month average, data shows.

“It seems this time the sale to Agrokor will be pulled through since any alternative would be a much worse option for everybody involved,” Andraz Grahek, managing partner at Capital Genetics in Ljubljana, said by phone today. “The driving force for Agrokor’s financing the acquisition are some private equity funds, including One Equity Partners as they see sense in the merger of the retail operations.”

Agrokor, Croatia’s largest company with interest in food production, retail and press distribution, is the only bidder for the 53 percent stake in Mercator, Futura public relations agency in Ljubljana, said on June 5. Futura represents Mercator’s majority shareholders. Agrokor wants to expand its business as the company sees increased competition in the region as the former Yugoslav nation joins the European Union in July.

Nova Ljubljanska Banka d.d., one of Mercator owners with a 10.75 percent holding, sold its stake to Agrokor, Delo newspaper reported today, citing people familiar at Slovenia’s biggest bank. Agrokor was said to offer 120 euros per Mercator share, according to the Ljubljana-based newspaper.

“Talks between the group of sellers and the buyer are in progress so we cannot disclose details,” Mojca Strojan, spokeswoman for NLB, said in a response to Bloomberg News questions. She said Mercator stake is not considered a strategic asset and is planned to be sold off.

The sale is in progress and Mercator cannot comment further, Katja Kek, the Ljubljana-based company spokeswoman, said by phone.

Pivovarna Lasko Group is the largest owner of Mercator and the company’s supervisory board is meeting today to give the final approval to the sale of its 23 percent stake, spokesman Jernej Smisl said by phone. Agrokor spokeswoman Anja Linic declined to comment when contacted by e-mail by Bloomberg News.

Agrokor last attempted to purchase the Slovenian retailer in 2011 though it abandoned the effort in February 2012 due to opposition from Slovenian officials, who said the move may hurt the country’s food industry. Agrokor offered 221 euros per Mercator share at the time.

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