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Shareholders approve charter changes at European food company Fortenova

European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Shareholders of food company Fortenova have approved proposals aimed at making it possible for the company to operate and make business decisions while one of its stakeholders is under EU sanctions, the company said on Thursday.

Fortenova, headquartered in Croatia, has a Dutch parent company. A Russian entity that was added to EU sanctions lists last month holds a 42.5% stake in Fortenova and is the subject of an ongoing legal dispute in the Netherlands.

The 42.5% held by SBK ART LLC of Russia did not have voting rights at the meeting, a decision its owner is challenging in court.

Decisions made on Thursday included extending the term of the company's board by six years and empowering its managers to make strategic transactions of up to 500 million euros in size.

United Arab Emirates investor Saif Alketbi has challenged the company's right to hold the shareholder meeting and to make the changes.

His lawsuit is being heard separately in Amsterdam on Thursday, though it is not clear when a decision will be made.

Alketbi says he purchased SBK Art LLC in October from sanctioned Sberbank for 400 million euros. However Fortenova questions the legitimacy of that transaction and the European Union Council added SBK to its list of sanctioned entities last month at Croatia's request.

On Dec. 29, a Dutch court ruled SBK cannot exercise its voting rights while it is under sanctions.

The dispute is noteworthy as a test of rights of shareholders who have been sanctioned by the EU following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and because Fortenova, known as Agrokor until a 2019 restructuring, is one of southeast Europe's largest firms.

A filing at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce showed that Fortenova had net profit of 38 million euros on revenues of 4.09 billion euros in 2021, the most recent year available.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Susan Fenton and Elaine Hardcastle)