Competition watchdog okays Mercator takeover by Agrokor
The Slovenian Competition Protection Agency (AVK) has green-lighted the takeover of retailer Mercator by Croatian Agrokor. The watchdog approved the market concentration which the acquisition of a 53% stake in Mercator would cause, agency boss Andrej Krašek told the press in Friday.
The AVK has performed a broad market survey, obtaining data from competition, producers and suppliers and other relevant companies, Dajana Muženič Abramovič of the agency said.
The AVK found that if the merged company stopped buying from existing suppliers, these would still turn to a wide-enough network of potential consumers.
Moreover, the agency said that the merged company's market share for individual product groups would not exceed 25%, therefore the takeover cannot be a threat to competition in Slovenia.
However, this does not mean that there will not be a significant shift in the purchasing power of the merged company, Muženič Abramovič pointed out.
Replying to a question from the press, Krašek said there was no pressure from politicians or anybody else. "I myself am a bit surprised this has not happened," he said.
Krašek moreover said he never met Agrokor representatives but did meet the company's legal advisers who took part in the procedure.
AVK's approval is not the only relevant decision, as the Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian competition watchdogs also have to okay the deal. The agency made its decision a week ago and has already notified both companies.
While the Serbian watchdog is expected to announce its decision on Tuesday, according to Serbian media, the Croatian agency might take a while longer because additional proceedings have been launched to investigate the potential market concentration.
Media reports suggest that the Serbian Competition Protection Commission has so far found that the takeover would have unlawful consequences in some parts of the country, where the combined market share of Mercator and Agrokor's subsidiary Idea would be very high.
Krašek however doubts that the Serbian commission will reveal its findings next week. He has recently visited the watchdog and its representatives could not tell him when the results would be known.
Agrokor signed a sales agreement for Mercator with a consortium of owners in June at EUR 120 per share for a total of EUR 240m. This was more than EUR 100 per share less than the previous time Agrokor bid to buy the retailer. This is the already ninth attempt to sell Mercator.
It is however becoming increasingly unclear whether the takeover will indeed take place. The daily Dnevnik has said that Agrokor failed to reveal to Mercator's creditor banks where it would get the funds to buy the retailer.
Moreover, the banks have set nearly impossible conditions to Agrokor, Dnevnik said on its web page.