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State-owned stake would protect MOL from hostile takeovers

It would protect MOL from hostile takeovers if the Hungarian government purchased the share packet held by Russia's Surgutneftegas, the Hungarian oil and gas company's president and CEO Zsolt Hernádi said in a radio interview.

Hernádi emphasised that this would be reassuring for the state as well, as MOL owns strategic assets that must be protected from getting into hostile hands not only from Hungary's point of view but also from that of other Central European countries.

Surgutneftegas acquired its stake in MOL from Austrian peer OMV for €1.4 billion in March 2009. MOL's management called the deal unfriendly and Hungary's president expressed concern about the transaction. The 21.2% stake is worth about HUF 471 billion, based on Thursday's closing price.

Hernádi said there are no ongoing talks between MOL and Surgut, noting that ownership issues are the business of shareholders, not of the management. The oil company's management is usually informed, however, of sales negotiations between existing and potential shareholders, he said, adding that “if it is requested, we will provide support”.

“Over the past ten years I have always felt MOL as part of a regional game,” the CEO said. As this is about energy policy, it would be a bad sign, if MOL was not part of it, he added.

Hernádi said INA cannot be a subject to bargaining in connection with Surgut's MOL shares. Holding control over the Croatian oil company ensures opportunities outside of Europe for MOL, Hernádi said, referring to extraction possibilities in Syria and possible opportunities in the Adriatic.

As regards to an eventual extension of the crisis tax, levied for a temporary three years, Hernádi said that would be a very bad message to foreign and Hungarian investors. He accepts the tax as a (fiscal and macroeconomic) consolidation and a more efficient operation of the state is in everybody's interest, but such programs must produce a return in two or three years, the CEO said. (MTI – Econews)