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Mol looks towards a regional role

Hungarian oil and gas company Mol has set its sights on regional expansion and rationalization, with its current programme including bids for Polish companies and an offloading of its domestic gas interests. Both deals have, however, been disrupted by political factors.

Zoltán Áldott

Mol was one of the first companies in eastern Europe to make a serious bid to become a key regional player. It began in the 1990s as Hungary's national oil distributor but had decided by 1998 that regional expansion was the only way to achieve enough clout and growth opportunities in a fragmented market. It kick-started the power battle between the region's three biggest oil groups in 2000 and has been gunning for the top ever since.

The fully integrated oil and gas business is already central and eastern Europe's largest quoted oil company, with Poland's PKN Orlen and Austria's OMV trailing it. But it is still a baby compared with the Russian companies in terms of market capitalization and further growth hangs on the outcome of three key transactions. Unfortunately, these are also in the hands of politicians.

After a failed attempt to get its hands on Croatia's oil and gas business Ena, Mol's purchase in 2000 of an initial stake in Slovnaft, Slovakia's largest oil refiner and marketer, began the acquisition race between Mol, PKN Orlen and OMV.

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