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Serbia‘s privatization agency appeals Belgrade court’s judgment on Lithuania’s Alita

Eriko Ovčarenko / 15min nuotr. / Alita
Šaltinis: BNS

Serbia’s Privatization Agency has lodged an appeal against the judgment of the Commercial Court of Belgrade, which set aside the partial award including Alita Group, Lithuania’s largest alcohol producer, as a respondent in an arbitration case over nearly 60 million litas (EUR 17.4m) in damages sought by the agency.

The agency accuses Alita and its partners of failing to meet their commitments under a deal on the privatization of Serbia’s beer maker Beogradska Industrija Piva (BIP).

The Commercial Court of Belgrade satisfied Alita’s request and set aside the partial award, adopted on 15 November 2011, whereby Alita was included as a respondent in the case initiated by the Serbian Privatization Agency over violations of BIP privatization agreement.

However, the Lithuanian company's position was that its involvement as a respondent in the arbitration proceedings initiated by Serbia was unfounded, because it was not a party to the BIP privatization agreement and had never concluded any agreement to settle the dispute in arbitration.

The agency sought 39.136 million litas in damages from Alita for violations of the BIP privatization agreement.

The arbitration institution ordered Alita and Sweden's United Nordic Beverages, Alita‘s partner in this privatization deal, to pay the Serbian Privatization Agency a total fine of 16.849 million euros, instead of around 68 million euros sought by the agency. Alita was to pay 11.35 million euros.

Foreign arbitration awards must be recognized and enforced by Lithuanian courts. Alita has already challenged the Serbian arbitration court's jurisdiction to the Lithuanian Court of Appeals, with a hearing scheduled for 3 December.

The Serbian Privatization Agency nationalized shares in BIP in 2009 claiming that the then Alita, which was later split into two companies, and United Nordic Beverages failed to meet their commitments to invest in the Serbian brewery and buy out its minority shareholders, and in November 2010 took the Lithuanian company to the Serbian arbitration court seeking around 68 million euros damages.

In September 2009, Alita split up its operations into two separate companies: Alita Group took over the alcoholic drink production facilities in Alytus and Anykščiai, while Alita, which was later renamed ALT Investicijos and went bankrupt some time later, remained in charge of the group's investment in Serbia.

FR&R Invest, an investment subsidiary of Swedbank, currently holds an 84.56-percent stake in Alita Group, which is listed on the NASDAQ OMX Vilnius stock exchange.

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