March 24, 2009 / 3:16 PM / in 8 years

Trade in Slovene Istrabenz halted for debt talks

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LJUBLJANA, March 24 (Reuters) - The Ljubljana Stock Exchange said on Tuesday it had suspended trade in energy and tourism group Istrabenz (ITBG.LJ), pending the outcome of debt talks with its creditors.

The Exchange said Istrabenz itself had requested the suspension, following media reports regarding talks with creditors "and the future fate of Istrabenz". Istrabenz said it was in talks with banks but declined any further comment.

The bourse said Istrabenz, which has market capitalisation of 49.7 million euros, was expected to announce details of its talks with bank creditors on March 30. It said the suspension was expected to be lifted on March 31.

Media reports said Istrabenz was in talks with several local banks about rescheduling debts of about 900 million euros ($1.23 billion), of which 160 million euros mature at the end of March.

Istrabenz shares started falling heavily on uncertainty over its debt on March 13, losing 9.7 percent to 13.35 euros, and were down at 8.95 euros on Monday. The blue-chip SBI index .SBI has gained 2.32 percent in that period.

There was no trade in the shares on Tuesday.

"The investors are worried that the value of the company might be getting close to zero and ... such speculation would affect trade over the next few days," Bine Pangrsic, an analyst at Medvesek Pusnik brokerage told Reuters, adding the suspension was welcome. (Reporting by Manca Ulcar; edited by Marja Novak and Zoran Radosavljevic, editing by Will Waterman) ($1=.7337 Euro)

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