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Hungary hoping to thwart takeover plans of MOL oil company by Austria's OMV

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Hungary is hoping to block Austrian energy company OMV AG from taking over Hungarian oil and gas producer MOL Nyrt, the prime minister said Wednesday.

OMV said earlier this week that it has spent about €1 billion ($1.3 billion) to acquire an additional 8.6% of MOL, bringing its total stake to 18.6%. “I do not consider it friendly when a state-owned foreign company, without giving notice, starts acquiring stakes with the intention of gaining (obtaining) control over the Hungarian company,” Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány told a news conference in parliament. He called OMV's move a “hostile buyout,” saying the move was not based on common strategic grounds, but only on OMV's interest. Opposition party Fidesz supports the government in its effort to prevent OMV to buy out MOL.

The Austrian company rejected Gyurcsány's allegations, telling The Associated Press that it had acquired a “strategic stake” in MOL “to be well prepared for the upcoming wave of consolidation in the industry and in the region.” “If (there) were to be a hostile takeover attempt, we would say so. And we haven't,” OMV spokesman Thomas Huemer told Dow Jones Newswires.

After the latest stake purchase, OMV said a union between it and privately owned MOL would result in effective competition with bigger global business rivals. Both companies' core market is Central Europe, while within the shared market they focus on different regions. Among other interests, MOL owns TVK, a leading Hungarian chemicals company; Slovnaft, the Slovakian oil company; and has a minority stake in INA, the Croatian oil firm. Talks between MOL and the Hungarian government have been going on since Monday. “We invited MOL's management to enter into structured discussions. We see it for what it is — an increase in stake and an invitation to talks,” Huemer said. Gyurcsány, however, said he was hoping to thwart the Austrian company's plan. “With all that's in our hands, we will try to make the hostile buyout fail,” he said. (iht.com)

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