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Croatia/Hungary: Mol seeks greater control at home and abroad

Negotiations on government purchase of Surgutneftegaz stake; Surprise offer to buy out minority shareholders at INA

Mol, Hungary’s leading oil and gas company, is looking to resolve ownership issues at home and abroad. On the domestic front Mol is seeking to come to terms with Russian oil company Surgutneftegaz, which holds a 21.2% stake in the firm that it acquired for $2 billion in March 2009 from Austria’s OMV after OMV failed in its attempt to acquire Mol in a hostile takeover. The stake is now worth about $2.3 billion. For its part Mol has always regarded Surgutneftegaz’s holding in a negative light and believed that the Russian oil company would seek to wrest control with the backing of the Russian government.

Mol has succeeded in persuading the Hungarian government to initiate talks on acquiring the Russian company’s stake on the basis that Mol, the country’s largest refiner, is a national strategic asset that should not fall into foreign hands. In late December, however, Hungarian development minister Tamas Fellegi told local media that negotiations between Hungarian and Russian officials were proving tricky. "The Russians are defending their positions hard, but in a correct manner", said Fellegi, adding: "We are also defending out national interests in a hard and correct manner."

Croatian intrigue

Mol is also seeking to extend its control over Croatian oil and gas company Industrija Nafte (INA), announcing a surprise bid in early December for an 8% stake held by minority shareholders.

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