11 Feb 2010 11:44

MOL offers to buy back shares from Surgutneftegas - newspaper

MOSCOW. Feb 11 (Interfax) - Hungarian oil and gas company MOL has offered to buy back the 21.22% of its shares that Russia's Surgutneftegas purchased for 1.4 billion euro in the spring of 2009, the Vedomosti newspaper said, quoting sources close to the MOL management and the Russian Energy Ministry.

The paper's sources said Russian governmental officials discussed this with Hungary two weeks ago, and that a MOL delegation was due in Moscow yesterday to continue the negotiations. The Hungarian businessman said an exchange was being discussed, and that Surgutneftegas was insisting if receive support when buying other European assets.

Hungarian press reports have said MOL had already suggested a swap along these lines: the company was willing to sell shares in Croatia's INA to Surgutneftegas in exchange for the MOL shares owned by the Russian company. Surgutneftegas denies that talks regarding this had taken place.

Vedomosti's source close to the Energy Ministry said Russian officials did not object to selling the shares back to MOL, but that the details of the deal had not yet been discussed. Two businessmen close to MOL have heard that the company is offering to buy the shares back for the same EUR 1.4 billion, the paper said.

MOL and Surgutneftegas are not commenting on the information.

Surgutneftegas bought the shares from Austria's OMV. MOL treated this as an unsolicited transaction and Surgutneftegas was not even invited to its AGM in the summer of last year. Surgutneftegas is seeking to uphold its rights as a shareholder in court.

MOL produces around 2 million tonnes of oil per year. It has five refineries, but its prize asset is the Hungarian gas transportation system.