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Croatia wants new talks with MOL on INA - wire

Croatia's government on Thursday said it wants new talks with Hungarian oil and gas company MOL on their shared ownership of Croatian energy company INA, Reuters reported.

"The goal of talks is to ensure more efficient implementation of the goals from the shareholder agreement, especially in relation to national energy stability, and improvement of the business results and INA's market position in Croatia and southeastern Europe," Reuters reported the government as saying. "We think that these goals have not been met," it added.

MOL is always open to any talks with its strategic partners, said MOL communications director Dora Somlyai when asked about the news by MTI. MOL is convinced that INA's development, as well as results achieved in the area of energy security for Central and Eastern Europe prove that the two main shareholders and strategic partners are fulfilling their original aims, but MOL is always ready to further develop these results, Somlyai added.

MOL holds 47.46% of INA and has an option to buy another 1.6% of shares. The Croatian government owns 44.8%.

MOL made a public purchase offer for the 8% of INA shares in free float last December. MOL offered HRK 2,800 per share, the same as the price in a public purchase offer it made in the autumn of 2008. But other market players appeared to outbid MOL, pushing the share price over the offer. MOL raised its stake by just 0.1% in the offer.

Purchases of INA shares by foreign parties made after the latest offer ended have come under scrutiny by Croatian financial market regulator HANFA. The watchdog recently suspended trade in INA shares indefinitely until a procedure can establish whether regulations have been broken with regard to "price-sensitive information". It also filed criminal charges against MOL on suspicion of market manipulation.

MOL has firmly rejected speculation that it was behind the purchases of INA shares under scrutiny by HANFA, but it has confirmed it bought INA shares from third parties after the latest purchase offer ended.

MOL's communications director told MTI that in line with the shareholder agreement and as a result of the cooperation between the Croatian government and MOL, INA has undergone developments on a significant scale over the past years. Its financial position has stabilized, and its investments in its exploration, production and trade activities have accelerated, Somlyai said. With the completion of phase one of the modernization program at INA's refinery in Rijeka, the company became capable of supplying Croatia with Euro V vehicle fuels, she added.