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MOL backtracks on extraordinary INA dividend

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Hungarian oil and gas company MOL on Tuesday said it suspended a request to call a general meeting of shareholders of Croatia's INA to vote on an extraordinary dividend. MOL, "as a responsible shareholder", said it had suspended the request "due to the falling oil price and its potential negative effect on INA".

MOL made the announcement just minutes after the start of trade. Its share price rose sharply around the same time before falling into the red. The shares traded at HUF 11,365, down 0.22%, shortly after 10 in the morning.

MOL requested the extraordinary general meeting late last November to vote on a proposal to pay a HRK 2 bln (€260m) dividend.

On a website the company created to clarify its position on developments involving INA, MOL linked the dividend to the Croatian economy ministry's decision to revoke exploration licences. MOL said the ministry "is currently not supporting an investment friendly environment in Croatia and therefore the time has come now for all shareholders to realize return of their previous investments".

MOL holds a little less than 50% of INA's shares, but has management rights in the company. The state of Croatia owns about 45%. A perceived lack of investment in the company by MOL and the state's failure to take over INA's loss-making gas business, as stipulated in a shareholders agreement, have been sources of tension between the two stakeholders. Both stakeholders are in arbitration.

INA's balance sheet showed HRK 2.328 bln in its profit reserves at the end of September, including HRK 386m in statutory reserves.

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