March 21, 2018 / 5:09 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Croatia's Agrokor agrees claims deal with Sberbank

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ZAGREB, March 21 (Reuters) - Indebted Croatian food group Agrokor and its largest single creditor Russia’s Sberbank have reached agreement on a withdrawal of lawsuits and an acknowledgment of Sberbank’s claims, Agrokor’s crisis manager said on Wednesday.

Sberbank’s claim amounts to 1.1 billion euros ($1.35 billion), but it had been disputed by Agrokor as Sberbank previously filed lawsuits outside Croatia, notably in other Balkan countries, targeting Agrokor’s property to try to secure repayment.

“We have agreed today to acknowledge the claims, while Sberbank will withdraw the lawsuits filed against Agrokor within an agreed time frame,” Agrokor crisis manager Fabris Perusko told reporters.

Overall claims against Agrokor amount to some 58 billion kuna ($9.6 billion). Agrokor, the largest private company in the Balkans with around 60,000 employees, was a year ago put under state-run administration for 15 months to try to save it from bankruptcy.

“Sberbank is now returning to the negotiating table to reach an agreement on Agrokor’s debt restructuring ... and will fully engage in the ongoing talks on the settlement plan,” said Sergei Volk, a Sberbank senior banker. “We are satisfied with the new agreement reached,” he added.

Creditors include foreign and local banks, bondholders and suppliers and Agrokor expects to have the settlement terms ready by April 10. A settlement must be signed by July 10 if Agrokor is to avoid bankruptcy.

Perusko said the deal should “provide for wide-scale support of a large group of Agrokor’s creditors for the settlement plan.”

The restructuring process with creditors aims to put Agrokor back on a sustainable debt and equity footing, which is likely to include creditors taking over parts of the business and some write-offs. Agrokor’s assets are estimated to be worth at between 1.8 billion and 3.8 billion euros. (Reporting by Igor Ilic and Maja Zuvela Editing by Mark Heinrich and David Evans)

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