Croatia’s INA says MOL bid “acceptable”


The management of Croatian oil concern INA gave its backing to a public bid for majority control by Hungary’s MOL worth 2,800 kuna per INA share, a top INA source said on Monday.

“Given the current business conditions, we deem MOL’s offer as acceptable,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. MOL’s public offer for 31% of INA shares not owned by the Zagreb government or MOL is valid until Oct. 3. MOL already has 25% of INA and aims to become a majority owner. The bid values INA at 28 billion kuna ($5.5 billion), but many private and institutional investors have said it is too low. The Croatian public television HRT quoted experts, who said that offering less than 3,100 kuna is nothing short of an „insult.” The 59,000 shareholders can take their time, remind business papers.

The members of INA’s management board have decided to sell only some of the shares they own and keep the rest, according to INA’s official assessment of the bid, which it will make public on Tuesday. “The future has several scenarios, depending on business conditions and ownership talks. That’s why a decision partly to sell and partly to keep,” the source said.

INA is a dominant fuel retailer in Croatia, which hopes to join the European Union by 2011. It has upstream and downstream segments and is involved in exploration and drilling in the Middle East and Africa. Its shares were quoted at 2,860 kuna in afternoon trade in Zagreb, 0.52% off Friday’s close. MOL is in separate talks with the Croat government, which owns 44% of INA, on a possible share swap that would involve 19% of the stock. The talks are expected to be completed by November.

MOL’s regional rival, Austria’s OMV, has said this month it had no intention to compete with MOL in the public bid but would be interested in INA shares if the government called a tender. A number of small INA shareholders said they were likely to hold on to their stock, citing OMV’s potential interest, the expected market liberalization that will come with Croatia’s EU membership, and the ongoing modernization of INA’s refineries which is due to be completed in 2011. In the first week of the public bid, only 715 out of 3 million targeted shares were deposited for sale. (Reuters, MTI-Econews)


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