Hungary denies plan to sell MOL stake

By bne IntelliNews November 9, 2012

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Hungary's economy ministry on November 8 denied it has looked at selling its stake in energy giant MOL, despite the fact that the economy minister said two days earlier that it is possible. It says that it may instead use the stake to help raise funding, although offered no details.

The government has no plans to sell its stake in oil and gas group MOL, but might use the holding to raise money in other ways if necessary, the economy ministry told Reuters. "Raising funds with the help of the MOL stock would not necessarily mean selling," the ministry told the newswire in a written response to questions.

"It is possible to raise favourable market financing while holding on to strategic ownership rights as well," it continued. "There is no plan to sell the shares. If the external environment were to deteriorate severely and cause serious financing difficulties, we could discuss raising funds that way. The MOL shares are an additional safety reserve."

Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy said on November 6 that the stake could be sold "under extreme conditions". Analysts at Equilor wrote at the time: "This was part of a simple reply between MPs, therefore it will not affect the trading, in our view. Nevertheless, the stake was purchased at HUF22,400," they point out. Therefore, if sold at the current market price, it would signal "around a 15% loss (HUF75bn) for the whole package."

Matolscy was speaking in the context of Hungary's ongoing budgetary discussions with the EU, as well as talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a bailout. While the country has reserves to keep it going for now, it has had no access to international debt markets this year, and faces significant hard currency redemptions in 2013. Some analysts claim that unless it finds new sources of hard currency, Budapest will be forced to finally agree a loan programme with the IMF by April.

Budapest bought the 21.2% stake in MOL from Russia's Surgutneftegaz in July 2011, to boost its interest to 24.6%. The government was roundly criticized for the strain that the €2bn purchase put on the budget at the time. The state's full stake is currently worth €1.68bn, according to Reuters.

The economy ministry did not specify what kind of "favorable market financing" it has in mind, and did not comment on whether it plans to use the stake as collateral for a loan.

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