March 20, 2017 / 10:14 PM / 5 months ago

Russia's Sberbank ready to support indebted Croatia's food concern

ZAGREB, March 20 (Reuters) - Russia's state bank Sberbank said on Monday it was ready to financially support the restructuring of indebted Croatian food concern Agrokor .

Agrokor, Croatia's biggest private company and the biggest food producer and retailer in the Balkans, is under pressure from investors and the Zagreb government to clear up its debt problems, which could destabilise the local economy . Sberbank is one of its major creditors.

"Despite current difficulties in (Agrokor's) business operations, Sberbank continues to give financial support aimed at stabilising Agrokor's business," Sberbank was quoted as saying by state news agency Hina.

Agrokor said on Sunday it was working on a new business model to be presented soon.

Sberbank also said that, after talks involving major creditors, a plan for the injection of liquidity to Agrokor for the next three months, the amount of which has yet to be determined, could be finalised as early as Tuesday.

Agrokor employs nearly 60,000 people across the Balkans. It had annual revenue of 50 billion kuna ($7.25 billion) in 2015, around 15 percent of Croatia's gross domestic product. It is not listed, but some of the companies it owns are traded on the Zagreb exchange.

According to the latest data, from September, its debt amounted to 45 billion kuna against capital of around 7.5 billion kuna. A major portion of that debt, some 500 million euros ($536.70 million) will mature early next year.

Analysts say the company's troubles came because it expanded its business too aggressively and relied on risky borrowing. One option for Agrokor might be the sale of some of its profitable assets or a change in ownership structure, analysts say.

The Zagreb-based company is currently controlled by local businessman Ivica Todoric.

Sberbank also said that it was ready, once liquidity problem has been resolved, to consider long-term restructuring plans, but added that it was not interested in becoming Agrokor's owner. ($1 = 6.8958 kuna) ($1 = 0.9316 euros) (Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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