Croatian People's Party (HNS) leader Ivan Vrdoljak said on Monday that the focus of negotiations between the privately-owned Agrokor Group and its creditors was not on the owners, namely the Todoric family, or the management and supervisory boards but on Croatian families whose members worked in the group or for its suppliers, noting that Russia had only business and financial interest, and not political interest, in controlling factories in Croatia.
"Everything looks stable for now. Serious meetings should be held with creditors to see what their goals are. The focus of interest is neither the Todoric family nor the management or the supervisory board but 150,000 citizens and their families who are directly or indirectly connected with the Agrokor system," Vrdoljak told the press on the margins of a conference on vital issues for Croatia, organised by the Vecernji List daily.
Executives of the five largest suppliers of the Konzum retailer, which is a member of the Agrokor concern, convened in the Kras confectionery company at 11 am Monday to define their joint positions over the tight cash flow in Agrokor whose debt towards suppliers is estimated at HRK 16 billion.
In addition, Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Martina Dalic is expected to meet with the suppliers on Tuesday.
Vrdoljak believes that Minister Dalic's meeting with the suppliers may be useful.
Asked by the press whether this situation gives rise to the fear of potential Russian influence on Croatian companies, Vrdoljak said he did not believe that there was any political interest of Russia concerning the control over certain factories in Croatia.
"I think it is only business and financial interest, which is understandable. The government and the current owners of Agrokor should see about restructuring and divesting as well as refinancing of the current obligations so as to make Agrokor a stable and serious company," Vrdoljak said.
Maxim Poletaev, first deputy CEO at Sberbank, told Bloomberg on Saturday that this Russian bank, Agrokor's largest creditor, did not want to take over the Croatian company.
The lender and other creditors are preparing a three-month plan on how to improve the group's liquidity, and the plan is to be approved on Tuesday.
"Ivica Todoric is on the brink of losing control of the Croatian retailer he founded as a condition of Agrokor d.d.’s rescue, according to people familiar with the matter," Bloomber reported on Friday.
"Sberbank PJSC wants Todoric to cede control to creditors during restructuring negotiations, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. The Russian bank, Agrokor’s largest creditor, is leading discussions with other debt holders to overhaul the company’s management in exchange for refinancing and securing continued operations, the people said. Talks are ongoing and the ownership structure hasn’t been finalized," Bloomberg said in an article headlined "Tycoon Said on Brink of Losing Control of Balkan Retailer".
On Sunday, Agrokor said in a statement that its survival was not at stake and that its management was working, together with key investors, on repositioning the corporate system and on defining a new business model that would protect the interests of all Agrokor stakeholders, taking care primarily of employees and their jobs as well as suppliers and partners.
Agrokor said that the statement was prompted by a large amount of information about it in the media, including incomplete and false information, that could result in a wrong perception of the company's current status.