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Surgutneftegas again not eligible to vote at MOL AGM

Privately controlled Russian oil company Surgutneftegas will again have no voting rights at the April 29 AGM of Hungarian oil and gas company MOL as the Russian company cannot be registered as a shareholder in MOL's shareholders' register until an ongoing investigation by Hungarian market regulator PSzÁF is concluded.

The registration for the AGM has already closed.

Surgutneftegas is also highly unlikely to attend MOL's 2010 AGM as an observer, MTI has learned.

Surgutneftegas purchased a 21% stake in MOL from Austria's OMV last spring.

Russian papers reported early April that Surgutneftegas has not managed to have itself registered as a shareholder more than a year after purchasing its MOL shares.

Surgutneftegas will not be able to be registered as a shareholder and thereby obtain the right to vote at shareholders' meetings until the investigation of the Hungarian financial monitor (PSzÁF) started in April last year is concluded.

PSzÁF told MTI that the investigation is aimed at establishing whether the conduct of any market player violated the provisions of the capital market act regarding insider trading and influencing the market in connection with the sales and acquisition of MOL shares ensuring voting rights exceeding the percentage specified by the law.

PSzÁF has not published the results of the investigation so far, neither has it specified a likely date of its completion.

Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said in Moscow on Tuesday that the Russian authorities continue to support Surgutneftegas in its dispute with Hungarian authorities regarding the company's purchase of its stake in MOL, and will continue consulting Hungarian and EU authorities on the matter. The minister said the transaction conformed to the EU regulations, noting that the Hungarian authorities had provided no documentation substantiating claims that it was unlawful.

The Hungarian government spokesman told MTI on Wednesday that the Hungarian government had repeatedly notified the Russian government that it supports MOL's strategy, one of the key elements of which is the company's continuing independence.

MOL earlier announced that it regards Surgutneftegas's purchase of the 21% MOL stake as a hostile takeover. MOL also had considered OMV, the seller of the stake an unwelcome partner.

Surgutneftegas Chairman Vladimir Bogdanov said in March 2010 that he is satisfied with the deal and the company does not wish to sell its MOL share packet. He noted that his company has gained no return from the share purchase to date.

Last year, shortly after the purchase of the packet, MOL decided not pay dividends even though one year earlier it paid 40% of its considerably lower earnings as dividends. This year, MOL board will again propose that no dividends be paid.

However, a Russian analyst recently told Kommersant that he could not rule out the possibility that Surgutneftegas would start talks on selling the shares if it is still unable to participate in the AGM this year. Another expert added that Surgutneftegas would not be able to influence MOL's management and decision-making processes if it could attend the AGM because MOL's articles of incorporation restricts one shareholder's voting rights at a maximum of 10%.

Some analysts said at the time of Surgutneftegas's purchase of the stake in MOL they believed that the company had done so at the Kremlin's advice or under pressure from the Russian government.

MOL noted one year ago that there is no strategic or business partnership between Surgutneftegas and MOL. The company also emphasized that MOL intends to continue its own strategy and regards Surgutneftegas as a financial investor.

Analysts noted that if the Russian buyer aimed at a full takeover of MOL, it would be faced with the same obstacles that OMV confronted earlier.

At the time of the sale, OMV said it had given up its plan to acquire MOL because of the objections raised by the EU and MOL's management. (MTI – Econews)