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Hungary discussed Surgut's stake in MOL with Russian dep PM, not company, ministry says

The registration of the 21.%c stake Russia's Surgutneftegaz holds in Hungarian oil and gas group MOL was one of the subjects Hungarian Minister of National Development Tamas Fellegi discussed with Russian first deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov during his August 27 visit in Moscow, the Hungarian ministry said on Wednesday evening.

The Hungarian government has not held talks to date, however, with the representatives of Surgutneftegas.

Quoting a statement of the National Development Ministry, Reuters reported Wednesday morning that the Hungarian government had begun talks with the Russian company about the MOL stake. Russian business radio Business FM quoted later, however, representatives of Surgutneftegaz as saying they have "no knowledge of any such talks".

The ministry's Wednesday evening statement said that Mr Fellegi and Mr Zubkov agreed that the issue is of high priority, and the Russian side proposed to put it on the agenda of the next meeting of the bilateral inter-governmental economic cooperation committee.

In the statement cited by Reuters in the morning the ministry said that "The Hungarian government is committed to strongly asserting national interest in every strategic area -- and the government considers the energy sector a key area in this respect -- and strengthening the state's role within legal bounds," and"In this spirit, it has begun talks with Russia's Surgutneftegaz about the 21.2% it holds in MOL."

Surgutneftegaz purchased its MOL shares from the Austrian OMV last year for EUR 1.4 billion. MOL considered the investment a hostile takeover, and the Russian company has been blocked from attending MOL's shareholders' meetings since and the Hungarian company paid no dividends over the past two years.

Minister Fellegi indicated in a statement to Reuters in June that it would be desirable to see the MOL stake in Hungarian hands again, but declined to tell whether the government would directly repurchase the stake.

Surgutneftegas' 21.1% stake is worth around HUF 500 billion at current prices. (MTI Econews)