Creditors of the indebted food and retail group Agrokor will take over control of the group through three new companies based in the Netherlands, Agrokor's crisis manager Fabris Peruško said on Tuesday.
The ownership structure via Dutch-based companies was agreed because of that country's advanced legal practices in turning debt into equity, and a holding company based in Croatia will be put in charge of the group's operational management, Peruško added.
"The group's operational management will be in the hands of a Croatian holding company based in Zagreb. It will have operational and ownership control over all companies of Agrokor Group, both those in Croatia and abroad," said Peruško at a news conference in the government building on Tuesday.
The debt-ridden Agrokor was put under state-run control in April 2017 after ambitious expansion left it burdened with debts. Before the crisis, the company was the single largest company in Croatia with some 60,000 employees across the region. Its total debt to creditors amount to 58 billion kuna (€7.8 billion), and its single biggest creditor is Russia's Sberbank, with a €1.1 billion claim.
Although Peruško would not specify stakes of individual creditors in the new ownership structure, he did say Sberbank's claim would be key in determining its future position. Media reports last week speculated that Sberbank could get a stake of 30 percent or more once the final settlement with all creditors is agreed.
Peruško said the planned ownership structure would be determined in May, according to the Entity Priority Model (EPM) that will be used to turn creditors' individual claims into equity.
Peruško also dismissed any possibility that former Agrokor owner and CEO Ivica Todorić would return to the group's ownership structure after the state-run administration ends, saying that the debt he had left at the company was much higher than the group's assets.
Months after the state-run administration took over the company, Todorić was arrested in London on a European arrest warrant in November last year. He is wanted by Croatian authorities who are investigating him and 14 other Agrokor managers over corporate malpractice which led the company to the verge of bankruptcy.
Todorić was initially released on bail but told to stay in the UK. In a separate development on Tuesday, he attended a court hearing in London's Westminster Magistrates' Court in his extradition case. The court is expected to decide later this month whether he would be extradited to Croatia.
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