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Croatia may consider alternatives to finance INA stake purchase

Deals

Croatia would like to buy back shares of oil and gas group INA from Hungary-based MOL, the country’s Economy Minister Ivan Vrodljak said yesterday, the first time a senior Croatian official has openly stated this position. 

Ivan Vrdoljak told Croatia’s state radio the government was “interested in principle” in buying MOL’s near 50% stake, which has a market value of some HRK 19 billion ($3.3 billion), but said it may prove difficult given Croatia’s high public debt.

“I dont think well be in this unclear situation by mid-next year. I think that would be too expensive for MOL too and that they too wish to conclude this as soon as possible,” Vrdoljak told Croatian news agency HINA.

One option was for Croatia’s pension funds to buy back INA shares, he added. As a possibility, Vrdoljak mentioned pension funds that may be interested in certain packages of shares. 

We certainly want to get INA back in Croatia’s hands as it is our strategic company, but we need to approach that task very seriously given that our public debt surpasses acceptable levels,” Vrdoljak said.

MOL, which had flagged the possible sale of its stake on Friday, said it still hoped to resolve the matter in talks which started in mid-September with the Croatian government.

MOL owns almost 50% of INA while the Zagreb government has 44.84%. The two have been locked in a struggle over management rights in the firm, one of Croatia’s largest companies and biggest employers.

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