On 21 September, the European Commission (“EC”) unconditionally cleared a transaction involving the acquisition of the Slovenian retail conglomerate Mercator by Fortenova Group. Both undertakings are active in the supply of daily consumer goods across Southeast Europe. The transaction in question represents a part of a broader restructuring process of Agrokor (Fortenova’s predecessor and majority owner of Mercator), which aims to maintain the operations of Agrokor by significantly reducing its debt to a sustainable level, to ensure that the restructured group has the capacity to meet its obligations in the long run. As part of the restructuring process, all of Agrokor’s assets were transferred to Fortenova, with the exception of Mercator which waited for separate green light by the competition authorities.
During its investigation, the EC found that the notified transaction will not reduce competition in the procurement and wholesale supply of daily consumer goods, since the parties to the concentration have low to moderate combined market shares, the competitors on the market offer effective alternatives to the merging undertaking’s products and services and a majority of undertakings consulted by the EC did not raise concerns on the transaction.
Fortenova’s operations have in the past caught the eye of national competition authorities in the region, with the Serbian competition authority launching an ongoing investigation for potential failure to notify the transaction for acquisition of Agrokor’s assets in Serbia. In Slovenia, Fortenova was faced with the seizure of shares in Mercator for failure to notify the acquisition of Costella back in 2016, however, the decision of the Slovenian competition authority was ultimately annulled by the Supreme Court of Slovenia.