April 10, 2018 / 5:57 PM / in 16 days

Creditors of Croatia's Agrokor agree debt settlement terms

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Creditors of indebted Croatian food group Agrokor [AGROK.UL] have agreed draft settlement terms aimed at saving the company from bankruptcy, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Tuesday.

Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and Agrokor crisis manager Fabris Perusko attend a news conference in a government building in Zagreb, Croatia, April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

The creditors, including foreign and local banks, bondholders and suppliers, will vote on the deal before July 10, the legal deadline for avoiding bankruptcy.

“I am happy to say that a settlement process has been completed,” Plenkovic told reporters after meeting creditors. “We now have three months to finalize the text of the settlement.”

Agrokor, the biggest employer in the Balkans, was put under state-run administration a year ago after an overly-ambitious expansion drive left it weighed down by borrowings..

Russia’s Sberbank (SBER.MM) is Agrokor’s single biggest creditor with a 1.1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) claim. Overall debt claims against the company amount to 58 billion kuna ($9.7 billion).

“The settlement will help Agrokor return to normal business,” Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Martina Delic told reporters. “The systematic risk for the economy is now removed,” she said.

Agrokor said that the future ownership structure should be clearer in about a month once the agreed settlement terms were applied in more detail.

Sberbank could get around 30 percent of Agrokor following a debt settlement, a Croatian newspaper reported on Saturday.

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Agrokor crisis manager Fabris Perusko said: “Sberbank is the biggest creditor and that will be key to its future position and the future ownership structure, which will be known in May.”

For now, the creditors have agreed that they will assume control over the new Agrokor group, based in Croatia, through a company especially founded for that purpose in the Netherlands where legal practice for cases of turning debt into equity is well advanced.

The creditors will have to write off some of Agrokor’s debt and the new Agrokor group will take over a portion of old debt which will be assessed as sustainable.

Two thirds of the creditors must vote in favor of the settlement deal to make it valid.

In a separate development in London, Agrokor founder Ivica Todoric appeared at a hearing on Croatia’s demand for his extradition.

Todoric and around a dozen other former Agrokor executives have been under investigation in Croatia over debt problems that hit Agrokor.

    Todoric denies any wrongdoing and opposes extradition saying that Croatia has launched a politically motivated process against him.

    A London judge said on Tuesday that the decision on extradition would be released on April 20, the Croatian state news agency Hina reported.

    Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Adrian Croft

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