February 10, 2017 / 5:33 PM / 10 months ago

Croatia's Agrokor may have exhausted Russian credit - envoy

ZAGREB, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Russia wants Croatian food company Agrokor to repay its debts to Russian banks, the country’s ambassador to Croatia said on Friday, referring to concerns about the level of debt Croatia’s biggest privately-held company is servicing.

“We’ve on several occasions credited Agrokor, believing it will help stabilise the company. We’re not considering fresh loans,” Anvar Azimov was quoted by the state news agency Hina as saying.

“If Agrokor turns to Sberbank for a new loan, it will be considered in the light of financial difficulties it is currently facing,” he told a news conference when speaking about the prospects of boosting economic ties between the two countries.

Zagreb-based Agrokor is the biggest food producer and retailer in the Balkans. It employs almost 60,000 people with annual revenues of some 50 billion kuna ($7.13 billion). It is not listed itself, but owns several companies that are. Sberbank is among its major creditors.

“Agrokor has an intensive and continuing communication with all of its investors, including those from Russia. At the moment there are no demands for any further exposure to the Russian banks,” Agrokor spokeswoman Anja Linic told Reuters.

In a recent statement Agrokor said it was servicing all its financial obligations regularly and would continue doing so.

However, investors have recently voiced concern about the ability of Agrokor to service easily its forthcoming obligations amid already high debt. At the end of September last year its debt amounted to some 45 billion kuna against the capital of around 7.5 billion kuna.

“I think they might be forced to sell some of its profitable assets relatively soon,” a London-based analyst said.

Agrokor has also been considering an initial public share offering.

In the last 30 days the yield on Agrokor’s 2020 bond soared to almost 22 percent from around 7.5 percent.

IFR news agency reported on Friday that Agrokor’s debt stemmed from an acquisition of Slovenian retailer Mercator, which was funded with a 485 million euro deeply subordinated PIK toggle loan in 2014.

PIK toggle notes allow companies to make interest payments with additional debt if they are short of cash, meaning the size of the debt can balloon if not tackled quickly. ($1 = 7.0090 kuna) (Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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