National Development Minister Zsuzsanna Németh on Friday signed a declaration of intent on the acquisition of a controlling stake in MMBF Földgáztároló, which operates the country's strategic gas reserves, the National Development Ministry's communications department said.
The declaration was signed with representatives of the Hungarian Hydrocarbon Stockpiling Association (MSzKSz) and oil and gas company MOL.
According to the declaration, MOL is to part with its entire 72.46% stake in MMBF, giving the Hungarian National Asset Management Company (MNV) 51% and MSZKSZ 49% of the company. At present, MSzKSz holds 21.46% of MMBF. The transfer is to take place within 90 days, after due diligence is completed.
Hungary's government issued a mandate on Thursday to review the possibility of acquiring a 51% stake and to start talks on the transaction immediately.
The reserves were created with the conversion of a gas field in Algyő owned by MOL. The conversion, completed in the autumn of 2009, cost HUF 150 billion and was supported with a €200 million loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
The reserves have capacity for 1.9 billion cubic metres of gas. The facility is also used for commercial gas storage.
The ministry said that the step is in line with the government's intention to make strategic gas storage a state operation of a state-owned reservoir. The government will be able to guarantee the lowest possible price for retail costumers even during the winter months, it said.
The ministry statement added that the agreement also fits in with MOL's strategy of focusing on its core businesses.
The ministry said the purchase will not affect the central budget balance as it will be carried out outside the general government.