Sberbank planning to sell its 39-percent stake in Agrokor



Zagreb, 050618.
U Banskim dvorima odrzan je sastanak premjera Andreja Plenkovica i potpredsjednika Uprave Sberbanke Maksima Poletaeva.
Na fotografiji: Maksim Poletaev.
Foto: Bruno Konjevic / CROPIX
Bruno Konjevic / CROPIX

Maksim Poletaev

Answering to reporters in Davos, First Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board of Sberbank Alexander Vedyakhin asserted that the Russian bank which holds 39% of Croatian Agrokor food and retail conglomerate is planning to sell its stake in Agrokor in the first half of the year, Russian RIA Novosti reported and BLOOMBERG relayed.

BLOOMBERG reporters asked adviser for Agrokor and former First Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board Maxim Poletaev to comment on the statement. He relativized Vedyakhin's claim and stressed that the bank will surely sell its stake in Agrokor, but pointed out that date, price and buyer still have not been determined.

Two streams

Poletaev revealed for BLOOMBERG that Sberbank could, after becoming owner of 39% of Agrokor in April, find a single investor who will buy the shares and refinance the roll-up loan worth as much. It is strange that two ranking Sberbank officials have not discussed their statements for the public, meaning that this could be purposeful creation of chaos in the process where Sberbank is looking for ways to fetch the best price for its stake or indication that there are at least two streams in Sberbank that disagree on how to approach the situation in Agrokor.

At any rate, this presents continuation of Russia's 'rough play' in the Agrokor restructuring process as the bank raised lawsuits in Croatia and abroad against many decisions at the start of the process, but after six months became a constructive party and in the end signed the settlement agreement. Sberbank is, obviously, again acting like a bull in a china shop, trying to find a way to protect its interests as best it can, but in the process frequently acts inconsistently and crushes everything in its way.

It is clear that the Russian bank was trying to get the best price for its shares in negotiations with investors and creditors-owners of Agrokor, but it appears that Vedyakhin left Sberbank with less room to maneuver. When the seller announces plans to sell its 'product' by a certain date, buyers know that the seller is in a hurry, meaning that they can lower price of the product. That is, of course, unless the First Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board wanted to send a message to investors that the bank received good offers from enough potential investors, meaning that 'first come, first served'. However, this is happening before the settlement agreement has been implemented, while negotiations on refinancing of Agrokor's roll-up loan worth EUR 1.06 billion are underway. The settlement agreement should be implemented by end March this year, noted Agrokor and added that the roll-up loan should be refinanced in the period between April and June.

Interest rates

The problem is that Agrokor will be paying effective interest rate on the roll-up loan of 14%, which is harmful for the company, so the company hopes that it will be able to reduce the interest rate significantly. According to the process thus far, the interest rate should not be below 5%, but also not above 10%, meaning that it will still present penalty interest compared to the situation on the European financial market. For a company that just avoided bankruptcy, it could be a temporary solution until the loan is refinanced again. That is if the new Agrokor continues maintaining the current EBITDA margin.