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By Marja Novak
LJUBLJANA, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Slovenian household appliances maker Gorenje is actively seeking a strategic partner to help it to improve cost efficiency and strengthen the brand, it said on Thursday.
Gorenje is among the smaller brands in Europe with a European market share of about 4 percent, struggling to make headway against the might of global players including Sweden's Electrolux and U.S. rival Whirpool.
Electrolux this year announced several acquisitions in Europe and elsewhere, while Whirlpool also announced acquisitions in the United States and China.
Gorenje said it hopes to find a suitable partner and potential shareholder by the end of the third quarter of 2018.
The company made its announcement as it posted a 12 percent increase in nine-month net profit to 4.6 million euros ($5.4 million) on sales up nearly 5 percent at 944 million euros.
However, its said a rise in the price of raw materials means it will fall short of its full-year target of a 13 million euro profit with 4.6 percent sales growth.
"The globalisation and consolidation trends that have characterized the industry over recent years have further stimulated the group to proactively search for available strategic partnership opportunities," Gorenje said.
The company, which is Slovenia's second-largest exporter, announced a year ago that Japan's Panasonic had decided against a bid for Gorenje, saying the possible takeover would not fit with its investment strategy.
Gorenje's share price has since lost about 33 percent, against a more than 7 percent gain for the blue-chip SBI index .
Panasonic still owns 10.7 percent of Gorenje, with the government's investment company Kapitalska Druzba the largest shareholder with 16.4 percent. ($1 = 0.8593 euros)
Reporting By Marja Novak; Editing by David Goodman