March 6, 2018 / 3:42 PM / in 9 months

Croatia's Agrokor sees debt settlement terms ready by April 10

ZAGREB, March 6 (Reuters) - Croatia’s indebted Agrokor expects to have debt settlement terms ready by April 10, the head of the crisis management team now running the food group said on Tuesday.

Agrokor, the largest private company in the Balkans with some 60,000 staff, was put under state-run administration last April for 15 months after the firm buckled following a rapid expansion programme that left it weighed down by borrowing.

“In the coming weeks, starting from tomorrow (Wednesday), we will have regular meetings with creditors with a goal to have settlement terms defined by April 10,” the head of the state-appointed management, Fabris Perusko, told reporters.

The restructuring process with creditors aims to put Agrokor back on a sustainable debt and equity footing. Creditors include foreign and local banks, bondholders and suppliers.

Perusko said that, once settlement terms had been reached, creditors would vote on the deal before July 10, the legal deadline for avoiding bankruptcy. Two thirds of the creditors must support the deal to make it valid.

“I’m sure we will reach a deal as it is in the best interest of the creditors. That’s the only way for them to retrieve part of the funds invested. Our challenge is to find a good balance between the creditors’ views, as some write-offs are unavoidable,” Perusko said.

Claims against Agrokor total about 58 billion kuna ($9.68 billion), of which more than 26 billion kuna are disputed either by the crisis management or among the creditors themselves.

The biggest single creditor is Russia’s Sberbank whose claim of more than one billion euros ($1.24 billion) has been disputed by the previous crisis manager, who cited lawsuits filed by Sberbank outside Croatia to secure repayment.

“We are in talks with Sberbank and our positions are getting closer. It is our aim to get them back into the process,” Perusko said.

Perusko’s deputy Irena Weber said companies owned by Agrokor, including retail and food production firms, were operating well and in line with business plans, adding that this would support the firm in future after a settlement was reached.

Reporting by Igor Ilic Editing by Edmund Blair

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