* Sales up by 0.7 pct
* Share price firms by 0.8 pct
(Adds quote, details, share price)
By Marja Novak
LJUBLJANA, Nov 13 Slovenia's largest food
retailer Mercator said on Tuesday it made a loss of 22
million euros ($27.96 million) in the first nine months of the
year due to the weak economic climate which has hit consumer
The loss compares to net profit of 27 million euros in the
same period of 2011.
"On all of Mercator's markets we see low or negative
economic growth, high unemployment rates and consequently
falling consumer purchasing power," Mercator, one of the small
euro zone country's flagship companies, said in a statement.
Mercator had said in October it planned to return to profit
in 2013 by cutting costs and improving productivity.
The retailer, which is planning to sell its units in Albania
and Bulgaria, also operates stores in Croatia, Bosnia,
Montenegro and Serbia. Depreciation of more than 8 percent this
year in the Serbian dinar had a negative impact on Mercator's
Total sales rose by 0.7 percent to 2.1 billion euros, but
sales in Slovenia fell by 2 percent. The country, which is
struggling to avoid a bailout, is in recession and battling
growing bad loans at local banks and a gap in public finances.
Sales outside Mercator's domestic market rose by 4.4 percent
with the biggest growth in Bosnia, where sales were up by as
much as 54 percent due to a takeover of Bosnia's retailer
Drvopromet at the end of 2011.
Several local banks and a food producer, which together hold
a majority in Mercator, are likely to renew their attempt to
sell their stakes in the retailer in the coming months.
Last year, Croatian food producer and retailer Agrokor
offered 221 euros a share for Mercator, local media said,
valuing the company at 832 million euros.
But the sale fell through when the previous Mercator
management refused to let Agrokor perform due diligence, saying
it was its biggest competitor in the region.
Shares of Mercator, which has market capitalisation of 424
million euros, closed 0.8 percent higher at 113.5 euros on
Tuesday, before the result was released, while the blue-chip SBI
index lost 0.71 percent.
($1 = 0.7867 euros)
(Reporting By Marja Novak; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters and