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Croatia to ask OMV its intentions on oil firm INA

Deals

Croatia’s market regulator said on Wednesday it will ask Austrian oil group OMV if it is interested in buying a stake in national oil and gas concern INA, as local media have reported.

“Rumors about OMV’s interest in INA can affect the price. We will therefore this week, maybe as early as today, send a letter to OMV asking them to clarify their interest, if it exists,” said Ivo Sulenta of the Croatian Agency for Supervision of Financial Services (HANFA) Wednesday. “We are setting no deadline for OMV to respond, but I hope we’ll not have to wait too long,” he told an economic panel.

OMV was recently reported to have written a letter of intent to the fund of Croatia’s war veterans, which owns 7% of INA, although neither party has confirmed this. Hungary’s MOL, which owns 25% of INA and wants to become the majority shareholder, is in talks with the Croatian government on a possible share swap between the two companies. Should MOL boost its stake to more than 25%, it would have to launch a public offer for all INA stock.

Croatia is obliged to reduce its 44% stake in INA to 25% before it joins the European Union in around 2011. OMV has been seeking to acquire MOL. Sulenta said the Austrian firm had not made an official offer. “If the government received such an offer from OMV or any other company, it would be bound by law to make it public as such information could affect INA’s share price,” he said. OMV told Reuters earlier this week it was monitoring closely developments related to INA sale, but a source close to the company said it was unlikely OMV would come up with an offer as “the government apparently favors a deal with MOL”.

A five-year lock-up period imposed when MOL bought its $505 million stake in INA in 2003 expires in October, after which it is not obliged to consult ZagrebCroatia to consider MOL’s share swap proposal as a way to keep a say in its major energy firm. INA shares, listed in Zagreb and London, were quoted at 2765.00 kuna in early afternoon trade on Wednesday, or 3.17% up from Tuesday’s close. (Reuters) before disposing of its shares. This has prompted

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