September 15, 2017 / 2:00 PM / 10 months ago

Croatia's indebted Agrokor says facing court challenges abroad

    ZAGREB, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Indebted Croatian food company
Agrokor said on Friday it faced several court cases outside
Croatia targeting its property as it restructures under a
state-appointed crisis manager.
    Agrokor, the Balkan region's biggest private employer, was
put under state management in April after building up debts of
at least 40.4 billion kuna ($6.46 billion) by the end of March.
    Agrokor said in a statement legal procedures in most of the
property cases had been initiated by Russia's Sberbank
         , while Serbia's branch of Italy's Intesa Sanpaolo
         had also started one case.
    It said procedures had begun in courts in Slovenia, Serbia,
Bosnia and Montenegro, England and Wales, as well as in Croatia.
    An Agrokor source said the court procedures aimed to secure
repayment of debts from Agrokor's property abroad.
    Officials at Sberbank and Italy's Intesa Sanpaolo could not
immediately be reached to comment.
    Agrokor has hired PricewaterhouseCoopers carry out an audit
after the crisis management team raised doubts about the
accuracy of previously released results. A consolidated 2016
report for the whole group is expected later this month.
    As the biggest Croatian private firm with about 60,000
employees in the Balkans, Agrokor's problems posed risks to the
broader Croatian economy, prompting the government to step in.
    The firm had racked up debts during a rapid expansion,
notably in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Serbia.             
    Sberbank, a major lender to Agrokor whose exposure amounts
to 1.1 billion euros ($1.31 billion), filed a lawsuit in June
seeking to prevent the company and its state-appointed crisis
manager from raising new loans.             
    The Agrokor source said the property legal cases "were quite
long and even if they were successful the creditors cannot be
repaid twice, meaning their share in a final settlement would be
proportionally reduced."
    The crisis management team at Agrokor is expected to remain
in place for up to 15 months during which time the firm is
expected to reach the settlement with creditors.
    Agrokor's business stabilised after it secured a 480 million
euro loan from banks and other financial institutions in June,
including for its retail chain Konzum whose sales were hit hard
when the crisis peaked at the beginning of April.              
    Analysts expect restructuring to lead to the sale of
Agrokor's food production and retail operations, and expect
creditors to take haircut on some debt.
    ($1 = 6.2551 kuna)
    ($1 = 0.8367 euros)

 (Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Edmund Blair)
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