It has been reported two other binding bids have been submitted for Fortenova’s agriculture business, joining a confirmed offer from Croatian food group Podravka.

Podravka confirmed last week its non-binding offer, put forward in April with a view to conducting due diligence on the assets, has now been converted to a firm binding bid, effective on 14 June.

Two other parties are also said to be in the running after Fortenova acknowledged in January the Croatian business was testing market interest in acquiring the company’s agriculture operations.

Media reports in Croatia suggested the local companies Osatina Group and Žito are part of a consortium that has put in one of the other two offers, with a third led by Hungarian businessman Lorinc Meszaros.

Just Drinks has asked both Osatina and Žito to confirm they have joined hands in the bidding process but was not able to contact Mr Meszaros. Fortenova said via a spokesperson it “currently has no comments on the potential sale of its agricultural business”.

Fortenova is seeking to offload the agriculture division to focus on its core business areas of food and retail. The assets up for sale include operations such as meat processor Belje, vegetables supplier PIK Vinkovci and pig breeding-to-winemaking business Vupik.

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The retail arm comprises supermarket chains Konzum and Mercator. Its food unit includes condiments and edible oils business Zvijezda, cheese maker Agrolaguna and soft-drinks company Jamnica.

Osatina, meanwhile, is engaged in meat processing, the breeding of cattle and pigs, and the cultivation of fruit and vegetables. Its brands include Vero, Vego and Florasan.

Food processor Žito produces and supplies dry-cured meats under the Dobro line, along with Tena sunflower oil and flours, and the Svjeza egg brand.

According to business title Forbes, Mr Meszaros is one of Hungary’s richest businessmen and features on the magazine’s billionaire list with a fortune estimated to be about $1.7bn, largely accumulated in the gas industry.

Fortenova said in April it had received a “number” of non-binding offers for the agriculture division as part of the due diligence process.

The company added it would “assess the final binding offers, not only on price but also in respect of how the buyer will propose to be a strategic partner for the agriculture division, as well as Fortenova”.

Fortenova as a group, including at this stage the food, retail and agriculture assets, is destined for new ownership under Open Pass, a Croatian company owned by local businessman Pavao Vujnovac.

The European Commission granted approval for the transaction last week after a drawn-out ownership restructuring process to get around obstacles of some shareholders coming under Russia sanctions imposed by Europe, the UK and the US.

Open Pass and Vujnovac, who owned a 28% stake in Fortenova, committed last December to effectively buy out those shareholders with funds parked in an escrow account for when the sanctions are listed.