Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman F 7 is surprised that an investigation has begun in Spain on the purchase by his investment company LetterOne of the local Dia supermarket chain, and considers himself the main victim of a drop in retailer quotes. "I am the biggest victim of the collapse of Dia, we invested € 1.6 billion in the company," Friedman said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
Friedman said that during the transaction, LetterOne was confident that since Dia shares are traded on the stock exchange, its transparency and information quality will be at the highest level. But later, LetterOne discovered that Dia's financial statements were not reliable, Friedman said. “The Spanish shareholders have lost their money. But who is responsible for this? Why do they look at us when we tried to save the company, and not at those who lost their courage? I do not understand. We have lost more than anyone, ”the billionaire emphasized. He noted that the charges against him related to Dia's problems are similar to those brought against him in the bankruptcy case of Zed IT. In both cases, the charges, Friedman emphasized, are unproven.
Friedman said that LetterOne analyzed the Dia network before the deal and realized that retailer sales per square meter are 30% lower than other major Spanish retailers Mercadona. According to him, the Dia network is very similar to the Russian stores of the X5 Retail Group (it combines the Pyaterochka, Perekrestok and Karusel chains), so he was sure that she had a great future. In addition, the Dia network is also present in other countries, for example, in Brazil, which was also attractive for LetterOne.
“This is a great platform, it is a lot like Russia,” said Friedman. But he admitted that he could not even imagine the problems that appeared in the company a little over a year ago. “We should have been more careful, it was better to analyze everything,” he said in an interview. - It was our mistake, for which we are paying. We did not spend much time understanding what was happening. And as a result, we lost a lot of money. ”
Friedman noted that it was necessary to establish LetterOne’s control over Dia, which was in a deep crisis to try to keep the company “for the benefit of shareholders, employees, creditors and the whole community.” “We invested another € 700 million in a company that was in a state of technical bankruptcy,” he recalls.
The billionaire is confident that he will be able to return the invested funds. “We just need to find the right business model, here in Spain, in Brazil ...” he said. To restore and increase the company's value is a very real task, he added. And "strongly" recommended that minority shareholders increase their share in its capital, while the company is underestimated. “I am confident in the abilities of our team. This is a difficult, competitive market, which, as we have discovered, is also not very friendly. But we are able to show that our professional team will be able to revive the company, rebuild the Dia brand and return customers to stores, ”said the billionaire.
He himself is not interested in increasing participation in Dia, calling 70% a reasonable share. Friedman noted that he was ready to leave Dia if he could not reach an agreement with Spanish banks. “In the end, we are satisfied with the agreement reached,” he concluded.
The Spanish Dia supermarket chain, established in 1966, operates 7429 stores in Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Argentina and China. In 2017, LetterOne became a shareholder of the company, buying a 3% stake. Subsequently, LetterOne increased its stake and by May 2019 gained control of almost 70% of the capital of the food retailer.