Croatia is preparing a new shareholder agreement for local oil and gas company INA, which will be offered “very soon” to Hungary’s MOL, Economy Minister Ivan Vrdoljak told Reuters on May 12.
Croatia owns a 44.85% stake in INA, while MOL holds a 49.1% stake and the management rights. The two shareholders have been in a long dispute over INA’s management rights. The row resulted in both sides filing arbitration suits against each other, bribery charges for MOL's CEO Zsolt Hernadi, and the imprisonment of former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader for accepting a €10mn bribe from Hernadi in order to help MOL obtain management control over INA during the privatisation process.
Vrdoljak did not offer any details about the new shareholder deal.
The last round of negotiations between Croatia and MOL, which started in 2013, was held 10 months ago. The discussions yielded no results. Vrdoljak said in March that a new round of talks was expected in mid-April.
“We cannot agree that INA is operated on the basis of a contract for which former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader went to prison,”Vrdoljak said at that time.
Meanwhile, MOL have said several times it is ready to sell its stake in the Croatian company.
MOL’s chief executive said in January the Hungarian company is in talks with potential buyers for its stake in INA. In an interview with Austrian newspaper Wirtschaftsblatt, Jozsef Molnar said MOL's main aim is to reach an agreement with the Croatian government and remain a strategic investor in the Croatian company. However, MOL will sell its stake in INA if hostilities persist, he claimed.
Croatian media reported in December last year that Polish state-controlled oil refiner PKN Orlen was interested in acquiring MOL’s stake. Quoting unnamed sources, Jutarnji List claimed the Polish company had held several meetings with MOL, but that talks stalled, with PKN ready to offer no more than half of the €3bn the Hungarian company demanded.
Also, MOL seems to have started at other markets and other investment opportunities. It has recently said that in a consortium with compatriot MVM it has submitted a binding bid for Enel’s 66% stake in Slovak power producer Slovenske Elektrarne.
Vrdoljak also said that Croatia will probably sign in June the contracts on concession for oil and gas exploration in the Adriatic. In January, the country awarded 10 licenses for hydrocarbons exploration and exploitation in the Adriatic Sea.
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