MOL Wants Change In Croatia Before Taking Bigger INA Stake

Reuters

BUDAPEST, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Oil group MOL on Friday publicly raised the prospect of increasing its stake in Croatian peer INA for the first time in years but said it would not do so until Zagreb adopts a more investor-friendly approach to foreign firms.

MOL and INA have locked horns for years about control of the Croatian oil company, in which MOL owns 49 percent. MOL also has certain management controls at INA under an agreement with the Croatian state, which holds 45 percent.

"We cannot talk about MOL buying the Croatian oil company's state-owned stake, in part or in whole, before the Croatian government creates an investor-friendly environment and strives for co-operation with foreign companies investing in the country, as well as INA," MOL CEO Zsolt Hernadi told Hungary's state news agency MTI.

The two groups have been unable to settle their disagreements over control of INA. Zagreb wants more influence in decision-making at INA, while MOL wants to keep its management rights and has said it is ready to sell its stake in INA if no agreement is reached.

Talks between Zagreb and MOL, which began in 2013, have not resolved the situation. Economy Minister Ivan Vrdoljak in May flagged a potential new shareholder agreement but nothing has been put forward since.

Hernadi also said there had been several suitors for MOL's INA stake as recently as the spring of 2015, but he said there had been "no steps forward that could be communicated."

He reiterated that MOL had a strategy that outlined a future without INA but he also said it would be in the long-term interest of MOL, as well as the energy security of Central and Eastern Europe, to keep INA within MOL group.


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