Croatia

Croatian food company Fortenova Grupa, the Balkan region’s biggest firm by sales, said on Friday that more than 80% of its shareholders had supported the issuance of a four-year bond worth up to 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion), Reuters reported. The bond is aimed at financing a 1.1 billion euro liquidity loan the firm, formerly known as Agrokor, took two years ago to avoid bankruptcy, the company said in a statement. That followed an expansion drive based on high and expensive debt.

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Croatian food company Fortenova Grupa, the Balkan region’s biggest firm by sales, is preparing to issue a four-year bond worth up to 1.2 billion euros ($1.35 billion), it said on Friday, Reuters reported. The bond is aimed at financing a 1.1 billion euro liquidity loan the firm, formerly known as Agrokor, took out two years ago to avoid bankruptcy, it said in a statement. That followed an expansion drive based on high and expensive debt. “The interest rate will be 7.3% plus Euribor,” Fortenova said.

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Croatia’s ailing shipyard in the northern Adriatic city of Pula was placed into bankruptcy by a commercial court on Monday after an almost year-long effort to keep it afloat, Reuters reported. The shipyard belongs to Uljanik, Croatia’s largest shipbuilding group, which also owns another troubled dock in the northern Adriatic city of Rijeka. A decision on the shipyard in Rijeka is scheduled for June 5. The Pula shipyard has an outstanding debt of 164.8 million kuna ($25 million). Local media reported that it has 1,118 workers left who will now lose their jobs.

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A delegation from a leading Chinese shipbuilding company has arrived in Croatia for talks about a possible investment in the country’s largest shipbuilder Uljanik, which is struggling to avoid bankruptcy, Reuters reported. Officials from the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) met Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and his economic team on Monday and will visit Uljanik’s docks in the northern Adriatic later this week. “After the visit to the docks we will give full and serious consideration to this matter,” CSIC’s Chief Executive Hu Wenming told reporters.

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A court in Croatia on Wednesday postponed a bankruptcy ruling for the country’s biggest shipbuilding group Uljanik until May 13, as the government tried to delay activation of state guarantees to a customer for late delivery of a vessel, Reuters reported. The commercial court in the northwestern town of Pazin had already delayed its ruling from March and the decision in May should be final. Bankruptcy would threaten the jobs of around 3,000 workers.

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Russia’s Sberbank said on Wednesday it was committed to improving the performance of Croatian food group Fortenova following reports that it is already in talks to sell its newly acquired stake, Reuters reported. Agrokor, the largest firm in the Balkans with 52,000 staff, was put under state-run administration after it was consumed by debts built up during an ambitious expansion drive. On April 1 Agrokor changed its name to Fortenova Grupa and Sberbank, formerly the biggest creditor of Agrokor, is now the biggest single shareholder with a 39.2 percent stake.

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Twelve people were arrested in Croatia on Tuesday on suspicion of causing over one billion kuna ($152.16 million) in financial damage to the country’s biggest shipbuilding group Uljanik and the state budget, the interior minister said. Uljanik, which is 25 percent state-owned and operates two shipyards in the northern Adriatic cities of Pula and Rijeka, has been battling to stave off bankruptcy due to liquidity problems that began in 2017, Reuters reported. Workers are currently on strike, seeking unpaid wages.

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Croatia will decide in coming days whether to place troubled shipbuilder Uljanik into bankruptcy or try to restructure the business at a cost to the state of around one billion euros, a top official said on Wednesday. Last month Uljanik, the country’s largest shipbuilder, chose local rival Brodosplit as a strategic partner to restructure its operations, with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri acting as an adviser in the process, Reuters reported.

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Russia’s Sberbank, a key stakeholder in Croatian food producer and retailer Agrokor, has started to receive proposals to sell its share in the firm which is emerging from a debt crisis, an aide to Sberbank’s CEO said. Agrokor, the largest firm in the Balkans with over 50,000 staff, was put under state-run administration last year, crippled by debts built up during an ambitious expansion drive, Reuters reported. In October, a Croatian court approved a deal for the indebted Agrokor that includes a debt-for-equity swap.

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In 2006, three business luminaries huddled in Belgrade for a meeting so veiled in secrecy that it acquired a mystical code name: Hercules. The three titans wanted to test their strength by creating a giant retail company to dominate across the former Yugoslavia, Bloomberg News reported. The executives -- Ivica Todoric of Croatia’s Agrokor d.d., Zoran Jankovic of Slovenia’s Mercator Poslovni Sistem and Miroslav Miskovic of Serbia’s Delta Holding -- haggled for six hours before giving up, unable to agree on ownership stakes. It was a lucky escape for two of them.
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