DECEMBER 27 2013 14:43h

Serbia grants Agrokor conditional approval for acquisition of Mercator




 The Serbian competition protection commission has granted approval for the purchase of the Slovenian company Mercator in Serbia by the Croatian company Agrokor, provided that Agrokor sells a portion of its retail chain in Serbia.

Agrokor said on Friday that it was a positive decision. "The Serbian Commission for Protection of Competition has made a positive decision, approving the concentration of Agrokor and Mercator and accepting the measures that Agrokor has proposed in cooperation with its consultants," Croatia's largest food concern told Hina in a comment.

It is estimated that before merging with Mercator in Serbia, Agrokor would have to sell 21 or 22 of its supermarkets, measuring about 20,000 square metres in total area, in 15 Serbian cities.

The Serbian consumer organisation NOPS generally supports the Commission's decision, but suggests that the merger should contribute to competition rather than create a duopoly between Agrokor and the Beglian company Delhaeze, currently the two leading retail chains in Serbia.

Agrokor's takeover of Mercator in Serbia has been expected after Agrokor and Mercator signed an agreement on June 18 under which the Croatian company bought 53.12% of the Slovenian company's shares in Slovenia and Croatia. With the merger of Agrokor and Mercator, the Serbian market will have two powerful retail chains, after the Belgian company Delhaeze purchased the Delta Maxi chain from Serbian businessman Miroslav Miskovic for 932.5 million euros early in 2011.

Serbian consumer associations estimate that Agrokor and Delhaeze will control more than 50% of the Serbian retail market.

According to earlier announcements, the German discount retail chain Lidl is expected to arrive on the Serbian market in 2014.