The Croatian government and a group of creditors of Croatia's heavily indebted foods and retail group Agrokor plan to sign a standstill agreement this week, Yuri Soloviev, first deputy chief executive with Russia's VTB, has told reporters, as carried by Reuters on Wednesday.
"Standstill will be relatively short at the beginning... a week or a month, not a year... Changes in shareholders structure are possible (following debt restructure)," Soloviev said, adding that VTB exposure to Agrokor was at around 300 million euros.
Soloviev added that a pool of creditors was formed and is being chaired by Sberbank, the biggest lender to Agrokor. Creditors expect to work out a debt restructure plan and also look at an option of Agrokor selling part of its business to cut the debt.
Soloviev also said that the pool of creditors may provide Agrokor with short-term liquidity. "A local development bank may also provide guarantees to suppliers to continue supplies. Combination of short-term financing... and government support is possible," Reuters reported.
Soloviev told Russian media that Agrokor was part of a standstill agreement under which it must grant representatives of banks or the creditors' pool access to Agrokor's management or the replacement of financial directors and auditors.
He added that Agrokor is obliged to meet a series of demands, including the replacement of the entire management team that led the concern into the current situation.
It is important to strengthen the management, which will include representatives of the government and the pool of creditors. We are seeking professional managers with world references, Soloviev said.
He said Agrokor fell into problems because of irregularities in book-keeping and that the owners and management were responsible. He expressed doubts about Agrokor's financial reports.
Now, it's important to put an end to the panic, he said.
First, it is necessary to save the company so that it can operate normally, and the second step is to restructure loans to enable normal cash flow. Thirdly, a strategic sale of some businesses is possible, but at a normal price, which would reduce the debt burden, he said.