Russian Ambassador to Slovenia Timur Eyvazov hopes all obstacles to the transfer of Mercator to Fortenova Group, following a decision by the Slovenian market competition regulator, will be eliminated by year's end, saying that would be also in Russian interest.
We are closely following events in Mercator and Agrokor, he told the Maribor daily Vecer, saying talks were continuing so that a compromise could be found. Russia expects a mutual solution by the end of this year, he added.
Eyvazov said he had discussed the matter with Slovenia's economy and foreign ministry officials.
He said the Russian banks which had invested in former Croatian conglomerate Agrokor understood the importance of the Mercator retail chain for the Slovenian economy and Slovenian suppliers.
However, he added, the banks don't understand why Slovenia's market competition regulator provisionally seized 70% of Agrokor's stake in Mercator, over an alleged offence during the takeover the Costella water-bottling company when Agrokor was run by Ivica Todoric. This seizure is blocking the transfer of Mercator to Agrokor successor Fortenova.
We have shown a lot of patience, but Sberbank is a state bank, which means that its majority stake is owned by the Russian government. It's a bank with money of the Russian state, so we should make every effort to find solutions to protect our interests, said the ambassador.
A month ago a Slovenian court slashed the regulator's fine against Agrokor, which is delaying the transfer of Mercator to Fortenova, from €53.5 million to €1 million, allegedly as a compromise to unblock the transfer.
Slovenian media say Agrokor's management refused to pay even the €1 million, claiming the fine is not legally based but an attempt to persuade Fortenova owners to give Slovenian suppliers exclusive status.