Owners get two bids for Slovene food retailer Mercator

LJUBLJANA Mon May 13, 2013 10:40am EDT

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - The owners of Slovenia's largest food retailer Mercator (MELR.LJ) have received two bids for their majority stake in the company, the consortium of 12 local companies and banks that jointly control 53 percent said on Monday.

"The members of the consortium are studying the bids and expect to continue talks with the bidders," the consortium said in a statement.

It gave no further details but local media said the bidders were Croatian food producer and retailer Agrokor, a regional rival that tried and failed to buy Mercator last year, and investment fund Mid Europa Partners.

Agrokor and Mid Europa Partners declined immediate comment.

The media said Agrokor was the highest bidder, offering 415 million euros ($538 million) for Mercator, or about 110.2 euros per share, down from 221 euros per share it offered last year.

Mercator shares closed 5.67 percent lower at 104 euros per share on Monday while the blue-chip SBI index .SBITOP gained 0.42 percent.

"The shares fell on unofficial reports that the bids are much lower than a year ago, which creates doubt whether the owners will be willing to sell," said Luka Flere of investment firm KD Skladi.

"If the sale process fails once again, the shares could fall further," he added.

A similar sale process was stopped in early 2012 when the previous Mercator management refused to give Agrokor access to perform due diligence on the firm.

At that time, Agrokor had submitted the highest bid, valuing Mercator at 832 million euros, according to local media.

Mercator, which operates stores in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia and Bulgaria, is due to publish first quarter result late on Tuesday.

($1 = 0.7709 euros)

(Reporting by Marja Novak; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Mark Potter)

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