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Claim Hungary bought MOL stake with IMF loan "lacks grounds", says IMF representative

Claims that Hungary used money from its IMF financial support package to buy a 21.2% stake in Hungarian oil and gas company MOL from Russian peer Surgutneftegas lack grounds, the IMF's Resident Representative in Hungary, Iryna Ivaschenko, told Dow Jones on Thursday.

The purchase of the stake for €1.88 billion was announced on Tuesday. National Development Minister Tamás Fellegi said IMF money was used to finance the purchase.

"Making a connection between the IMF's money and the MOL purchase lacks grounds, there's no direct link between the two," Ivaschenko told Dow Jones. Furthermore, "asset acquisition would not be consistent with the objectives of the IMF's Hungary program of 2008, which was aimed at supporting the balance of payment need," Ivaschenko added.

Hungary had more than €2.5 billion from parts of the IMF-led loan that were called down but not used in its international reserves in February. Hungary's signed for the loan after its bond markets locked up at the height of the crisis.

Ivaschenko explained that the government's forex deposits can originate from numerous sources, including foreign currency debt issuance, thus the money amassed as forex reserves is not earmarked according to its origin.

"The government is free to use its forex deposits according to its priorities. As a general policy, [when spending forex reserves] it is advisable to take into account the adequacy of external and fiscal buffers," she added.