ZAGREB, May 12 (Reuters) - The debt of Croatia’s struggling food and retail group Agrokor is higher than the latest official data showed, the company’s crisis manager Ante Ramljak said late on Thursday.
Agrokor, Croatia’s biggest private company and the biggest employer in the Balkans with a 60,000-strong workforce, is battling to avoid a collapse that could derail the country’s fragile economic recovery and could even topple its government.
The debts of Agrokor’s biggest 19 companies, according to as yet unaudited results, amounted to 40.4 billion kuna ($5.92 billion) at the end of March, the company said in a bourse filing on Thursday.
“At first glance it is visible that obligations are 6.7 billion kuna higher than at the end of September last year,” Ramljak said in an interview for state television, adding that it is unclear what 3.7 billion kuna of that relates to.
The most recent official data shows Agrokor’s total debt at the end of last September was 45 billion kuna, six times the company’s equity.
“Auditors are now checking new figures ... They (the former management) did not report all the obligations; I suppose not to show that the debt was higher than creditors would allow for further lending,” Ramljak said.
Agrokor’s new management, installed after owner Ivica Todoric handed control to the state last month, has engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers to review Agrokor’s books.
The fresh figures do not include Agrokor’s Slovenian retail chain Mercator.
Police are also conducting an investigation into possible financial misdeeds at Agrokor. ($1 = 6.8295 kuna)
Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by David Goodman