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Czech PPF buys 50% stake in Russian Eldorado

A Russian business daily said on Wednesday the Czech Republic’s PPF Group has purchased 50% of shares in Russia’s largest home electronics retailer Eldorado.

Vedomosti reported the deal is worth around $400-800 million, although market players assessed the company’s value at $4-5 billion based on 2007 results.

Eldorado owner Igor Yakovlev and PPF top managers have made no comment on the deal citing confidentiality, the paper said. But Eldorado General Director Igor Nemchenko confirmed the appearance of the new investor. “Banks have reduced loans on offer to retailers lately since the liquidity crisis began. The funds will be sufficient to resume company operations, and the first tranche has been made.”

Two PPF managers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said this was not a standard purchase, but a commercial deal where PPF Group N.V. provides credit to Eldorado receiving a stake in the company as security on the loan.

Home Credit and Finance Bank, Eldorado’s main consumer credit partner, is part of PPF Group. Representatives of Eldorado’s largest suppliers - LG, Indesit and Samsung - confirmed they had visited Eldorado’s central office on Tuesday. “We were informed of the deal and that the financial problems have been resolved,” the paper quoted one of them as saying.

The problems first arose in February following a tax claim for 15 billon rubles ($625 million) against the electronics retailer. The company said in March it planned to appeal the tax claim. Eldorado was also hit by other financial difficulties after banks, including Gazprombank and Sberbank, recalled $400 million worth of loans affecting the company’s supply chain.

Yakovlev, the company’s president and a major shareholder, earlier said that the retailer would have to sell some of its assets if it lost the case. Eldorado’s total debts stand at $1 billion. (