Hungarian fuels group Mol is open to selling its stake in Croatian oil company INA, but until then it will continue to operate INA to the best of its knowledge, said Pál Kara, General Counsel of Mol Group, in an interview with Hungarian public television M1 on Monday morning.
The Board of Directors of Mol declared in 2013 that INA will either operate on a market economy principle or the Hungarian stake will need to be bought out, Kara reminded. The situation has not changed, and Mol remains open to negotiations", awaiting a proposal from the Croatian party "with great patience and respect".
Russiaʼs state-owned oil and gas company Rosneft could take Mol’s place as a stakeholder in Croatian peer INA if Croatiaʼs government seeks a new strategic partner, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin was quoted as saying in an interview with Croatian daily Jutarnji list on Saturday.
Weʼre interested in efficient investments in the region
, Sechin told the paper cited by Hungarian news wire MTI. He added that Rosneft sees INAʼs refineries in Sisak and Rijeka as "two integral elements" of the company.
Sechin acknowledged Mol’s stand on profitability and headcount at the Sisak refinery, but said an upgrade at the facility could put it in an important position on Europeʼs oil refinery market.
"If Rosneft becomes an INA owner, it will modernize the company’s operations and it will be able to operate profitably under market conditions," he claimed. The refineries enjoy an advantage from the logistics angle in the Mediterranean region, he added.
Mol owns just under half of INA, but has management rights in the company. The government of Croatia is the other big shareholder, holding a 44.84% stake. Both owners have been at odds for years over the company’s strategy, including the fate of the Sisak refinery.
Meanwhile, a Swiss court rejected the Croatian governmentʼs request for revocation of an earlier arbitration ruling relating to INA.
Kara told M1 that with the ruling of by the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, the case launched against Mol in early 2014 is closed for good. The accusation was that Mol acquired control of INA via corruption, failed to fulfil the investments undertaken in the shareholder agreement and violated Croatian legislation on commercial companies.
The legal director said Croatia is obliged to do as the ruling says, and it cannot dispute the validity of the related contracts and any management issue relating to INA.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said late last year that the government would buy out Molʼs stake in INA.
Mol’s strategy will also be addressed at the Portfolio Energy Investment Forum 2017 conference. It’s not too late to register!