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EC steps up investigation of OMV bid for MOL

The European Commission's competition investigation of Austrian oil company OMV's bid to acquire Hungarian peer MOL could finish before its September 18 deadline,the EC said.

European Commission Competition Spokesman Jonathan Todd provided no further details, noting that the European Commission never comments on cases before they are closed.

The European Commission was originally scheduled to decide by July 22 whether OMV's potential acquisition of MOL would unduly restrict competition, though extended the deadline because OMV initially failed to submit sufficient documentation.

Reuters reported on July 10 that the European Commission, which acts as the EU's competition authority, had outlined serious doubts regarding the planned merger in a statement of objections (SO), citing sources who had seen the document.

“The merger would remove MOL as the most significant ... regional constraint on OMV, and at the same time, removes OMV as the most significant constraint on MOL,” the EU competition regulator asserts in the document, Reuters reported. The critique regards refinery sales of diesel and gasoline in Austria, Hungary and Slovakia and is typical of the Commission's position throughout the 134-page report, according to Reuters.

The Commission says OMV, which is making an unsolicited bid for MOL and operates the Schwechat refinery in Austria, would acquire two MOL refineries, Duna in Százhalombatta, Hungary, and Slovnaft in Bratislava, Slovakia, Reuters reported.

OMV raised its stake in MOL over the 10% limit on voting rights during the summer of 2007. MOL regarded the move as an attempted hostile takeover, prompting MOL's management to begin making massive treasury-share purchases and transferring the shares to friendly investors. (MTI – Econews)