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Mol to sell stake in INA

Hungary's oil and gas giant Mol may sell its shares in INA, a Croatian oil-firm, to stop further acquisitions by OMV according to Austrian paper Wirtschaftsblatt.

The newspaper says its sources are well-informed Austrian business-circles, and claims such a move would be justified by the devastating costs of Mol trying to buy back its own shares to thwart the takeover maneuvers of the Austrian peer. Mol purchased the INA package of 25% plus one share, in 2003, but has had reason to regret the deal, as the Croatian company made losses owing to state regulation on gas-prices. However, Croatian analysts think that Mol has enough cash to take up loans, so the motive behind selling INA shares is in fact Russian LUKoil's ambition to buy up Mol.

Lukoil has long wanted to expand in the region; it is presently market leader in Serbia, and planning a joint venture with Slovenian Petrol. In some experts' opinion, selling the INA package would be a smart move, as though the firm was earlier expected to make profits for Mol, the Croatian government now seems reluctant to let them increase their stake. As Mark Mobius, Templeton Asset Management's CEO points out in the Financial Times, a merger between Mol and OMV could result in a rise in shareholding value, and the making of a stronger company able to withstand acquisitions by large oil- corporations. Templeton currently owns 2% of Mol shares. The company would favor Mol and OMV to consider a merger. (Gazdasági Rádió, Napi Gazdaság)