Pécs officials sue their partner over ownership of Zsolnay

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The local council of Pécs, the minority owner of Hungarian porcelain maker Zsolnay, is suing the firm for HUF 300 million, claiming that the majority owner inflated the value of a piece of real estate that was transferred to the company in 2014, Ivan Szabo, the lawyer for the city, told Hungarian news agency MTI today.

The majority owner has said that the city is using its political might to end a public-private partnership gone bad with a hostile takeover.

Pécsʼs lawyer Szabó claimed that Zsolnayʼs majority owner, Syrian businessman Bachar Najari, earlier agreed to raise the capital of the porcelain maker by HUF 500 mln, including HUF 200 mln in cash and the apportionment of an old shooting range and water tower in the village of Hajmasker, valued at HUF 300 mln, MTI reported. But the city of Pécsʼs property manager, Pécs Holding, put the value of the real estate at just HUF 40 mln, Szabó said, according to MTI. 

The news agency noted that the local council had already taken the matter to court, but lost the case as it concerned only the legality of the in-kind contribution, not its value. The cityʼs lawyer told the news agency that the council had to wait until appeals were wound up in the earlier case before launching the new one. The case was filed in Budapest because Najari has assets there that can be seized, the lawyer added.

The war for the ownership of Zsolnay began in mid-April, when majority-owner Najari, who had partnered with Pécs in their historic porcelain factory, aired concerns of what he called a “hostile takeover”. By mid-June, Najari said his company had “come under attack by a group lobbying to take over business”.

On June 28, the local council of Pécs reportedly placed a lien on Zsolnayʼs bank account, while the registration of Ledina Kerámia, a firm established by the minority owner to take over operations, was temporarily suspended on Zsolnayʼs request.

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