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Surgutneftegas wants to sell MOL stake

Russian oil and gas company Surgutneftegas is considering the sale of its 21.2% stake in Hungarian peer MOL, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing a source at the company.

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.

Hungary's National Development Minister Tamás Fellegi told Bloomberg in an interview on Wednesday that the Hungarian state wanted to buy Surgutneftegas's stake in MOL by the end of the year and could finance the purchase from the market. Hungary may finance the transaction from the market based on the preliminary feedback it has received, Fellegi added. The government "does not welcome" a large foreign shareholder in domestic companies of strategic importance, the minister told Bloomberg.

In a statement published on its website late Thursday, the National Development Ministry said Fellegi had said in the interview with Bloomberg that representatives of the governments of Hungary and Russia wanted to handle questions of the energy sector as a whole, laying down the framework for such discussion by the end of the year. Addressing the question of Surgutneftegas's stake in MOL, Fellegi said the government considers the possible purchase of the shares a possible solution in the current uncertain situation. The ministry noted it asked Bloomberg to correct the piece based on a recording of the interview on which it was based. The Hungarian government is not negotiating with Surgutneftegas on the purchase of the MOL shares, the ministry said. In a correction of the piece published late in the day, Bloomberg removed the phrase "wants to buy" from the first paragraph.

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 on Friday. 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.(BBJ)