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HomeNewsBusiness WireTA Advisory FZ LLC: Saif Alketbi Expresses Strong Interest in Acquiring Fortenova Group

TA Advisory FZ LLC: Saif Alketbi Expresses Strong Interest in Acquiring Fortenova Group

AMSTERDAM–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#amsterdambusiness–H.E. Saif Jaffair Markhan Alketbi expressed his strong interest in acquiring Fortenova Group MidCo. B.V. for a fair price in his letter to international investment bank Lazard on June 16, 2023. This equates to an interest in acquiring all valuable assets in Fortenova as a company, and represents a dramatic last-minute intervention to prevent Fortenova from being unfairly acquired on the cheap, and to protect an iconic Croatian company’s long-term interests.

Lazard has been previously engaged by Fortenova Grupa d.d., the Croatian operational company of the Group, to support the process for examining interest by potential investors for purchase of Fortenova Group MidCo B.V., one of the Dutch companies through which Fortenova Grupa is held.

Fortenova did not inform or invite Mr Alketbi to participate in the sale process, despite his clear request to do so, and despite Mr Alketbi’s status as the current principal equityholder.

Mr Alketbi said:

“The distressed sale of the Fortenova business started in April this year had nothing to do with the wellbeing of the company itself. It received no bids, with potential buyers faced with short tender deadlines and scare stories about Fortenova’s debt burden. Now, it risks falling entirely into the hands of one player without any accountability in the process.

Fortenova is a systemically important company, with an impact on the livelihoods of millions of people in Croatia and the entire region. It cannot be sold as the result of a backroom deal. There needs to be a fair and open process to decide its ownership and its future direction.

As I expressed in my letter to Lazard on June 16, I am strongly interested in acquiring Fortenova Group MidCo. B.V. for a fair price. I first decided to invest in the company back in October 2022 because I believe in the strength and potential of the Fortenova Group. Given the circumstances, I am keen to help the company come to the ‘alternative solution’ that it has itself requested.”

Background to the dispute:

Mr Alketbi indirectly owns 43.41 percent in Fortenova Group. He is taking legal action to protect his interests in the company, following the initiation of illegitimate proceedings to sell all valuable assets of the group by selling one of the holding companies lower down the ownership chain.

He bought SBK ART (the company which holds 43.41 percent stake in Fortenova) from Sberbank of Russia on October 31, 2022. SBK ART was subsequently placed on the EU sanctions list, even though it no longer belongs to anybody in Russia, despite claims to the contrary; nor is it under any Russian influence.

In June 2023, in order to protect Mr Alketbi’s interests, an application for a number of reliefs was filed with the court in Amsterdam to prevent an attempt to sell the Fortenova business. The court’s decision on the reliefs is expected on June 27, 2023.

In April this year, Fortenova and its management (including people related to Open Pass, another major equityholder) started an unnecessary distressed sale process of the entire business. The result was that the process was effectively rigged and Fortenova received no bids. Fortenova’s management invited shareholders to offer an “alternative solution” to save the company.

Since Lazard continues to be retained by Fortenova management to explore the sale of MidCo, Mr Alketbi asked Lazard to share information relevant to his offer, including the structure of the proposed sale.

Earlier this year, Mr Alketbi applied to the General Court at the European Union level to get SBK ART’s wrongfully-imposed sanction removed, and is confident of success.

Mr Alketbi is a citizen of the United Arab Emirates and a well-known businessman in his home country. He has never been subject to sanctions.


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Conal Walsh / Andreas Grueter / Will Matthews

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