In late 2019, the Slovenian Competition Protection Agency (the “Agency”) shocked the local business community by announcing that it has temporarily seized the Croatian conglomerate Agrokor’s shares in Slovenia’s largest retailer Mercator d.d., worth an estimated EUR 140 million, for the purpose of securing the enforcement of a previously-imposed fine. The fine of EUR 53.9 was imposed on Agrokor (not Fortenova Group, which is a separate corporate entity) in October 2019, since Agrokor failed to obtain a merger clearance for acquisition of a Slovenian producer of drinks Costella in 2016. This incident involves one of highest fines ever imposed by the Agency – which the Agency stated reflected the seriousness of the alleged infringement.
Since Agrokor appealed the decision of the Agency and did not (yet) pay the fine, the Agency has, on 16 December 2019, in accordance with Article 201 of the Slovenian Minor Offences Law, effected the share seizure. Although this measure is not commonly used in Slovenia by regulatory bodies, it will most certainly set some directions for future use of such measures, having in mind that this is certainly the most high profile case in which the Agency used the powers made available by the Slovenian Competition Law.
The legal framework gives the Agency the power to temporarily seize any asset of an alleged infringer, against which a fine was imposed, if the Agency believes that the alleged infringer could prevent enforcement. Such a measure can last up to 6 months and an appeal is not suspensive. The Agency can even extend the duration of such an action for another period of 6 months meaning, that the Agency could seize any asset for up to one year. It is likely that Agrokor will appeal such a measure and the competent court will be obliged to adjudicate on the matter within 48 hours as of the appeal.