UPDATE 1-Croatian Agrokor to buy Slovenian Mercator for 452 mln euros

Sat Jun 15, 2013 4:36am EDT

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By Marja Novak

LJUBLJANA, June 15 (Reuters) - Slovenia, which is struggling to avoid a bailout, will sell its largest employer, food retailer Mercator, to Croatian food producer and retailer Agrokor, Agrokor said in a statement late on Friday.

Agrokor said it will pay 120 euros per Mercator's share, valuing the company at 452 million euros ($602.96 million).

Later this year the Slovenian government, which does not directly control Mercator but has stakes in companies and banks that do, plans to sell another 15 firms, among them telecoms operator Telekom.

Slovenia has so far been the only ex-communist state that has kept control of major banks and a number of large firms but now sees privatisation as a way to boost state coffers, improve corporate governance and avoid the need for international bailout.

Agrokor said it signed a deal with 12 of Mercator's owners to buy their combined 53.12 percent stake in Mercator for 240 million euros.

"The transaction pends upon regulators' approval ... and is expected to be completed this year," it said, adding it will later this year offer to buy the remaining shares of Mercator in line with Slovenia's regulations.

It said the new company will have a revenue of 7 billion euros and will employ 60,000 people.

Early last year Agrokor was offering 221 euros per Mercator's share, according to the media, but the sale collapsed because Mercator's former management refused to let it carry out due diligence.

($1 = 0.7496 euros) (Reporting By Marja Novak; Editing by Michael Perry)