On October 31, the Russian Savings Bank, which owned 43% of the shares of Fortenova Group (formerly Agrokor), sold this asset to Seif Al-Ketbi, a resident of the United Arab Emirates. Both sides stated that the deal was closed in accordance with the requirements established by the EU.
“Yes, I made a deal with Sberbank. I am sure that we will be able to register it. I, and my company are not personally under sanctions. We will continue to comply with all EU laws and regulations,” said Al-Ketbi in an interview with Jutarni. He hastened to dispel all worries about the future of the holding and stressed that a change of shareholder with such a significant share of ownership would benefit the company. The new owner of Fortenova shares has no restrictions on the international and European market. This means that the holding has gained freedom and opportunities for development.
The Russian Bank received a stake in Fortenova in 2019. Then a large retail holding, which was also the largest holder of farmland in the country, was named Agrokor. Over five years of lending in the Savings Bank, Agrokor owed the bank more than €1 billion. Due to financial difficulties and the inability to pay off creditors, the holding came under state control. Agrokor’s business was transformed into Fortenova, and Beac, due to debt repayment, received 43% of the shares of the restructured company. A year ago, the Beac put this stake up for sale.
Since 2021, the Russian bank has made several attempts to find buyers for the Fortenova package. The priority buyer, which was offered by the management of the holding itself, were Croatian pension funds. This option suited Fortenova shareholders and stakeholders as much as possible. But then the managers of one of the funds canceled the deal at the last moment. Attempts to find other buyers within the EU have also failed. European companies either could not get permission from the regulator, or refused at the last moment. In any case, the Russian bank closed the deal for itself.
The Russian bank has found a buyer who can bring Fortenova a lot of benefits. Seif Al-Ketbi is a respected player in the global investment market. His main interests are large real estate transactions and high-tech projects. In most cases, Al-Ketbi prefers to work with private capital.
Immediately after buying a stake in Fortenova, Al-Ketbi confirmed his business reputation. The employees of the holding company received a letter from him, which said: “Can I ask you to continue your work for the benefit of the company, applying the best principles of corporate governance? I look forward to a personal meeting in Zagreb in the very near future. Sincerely, Seif Al-Ketbi.”
It is worth noting that an investor from the UAE showed interest in the Fortenova stake, which was owned, in fact, by the Beac since 2019. And has far-reaching plans for the business development of the Croatian holding. It would seem that shareholders and management should rejoice at this fact. However, they exhibit behavior that continues to raise questions.