23 Nov 2009 18:25

Surgutneftegas denies rumors regarding purchase of Croatia

MOSCOW. Nov 23 (Interfax) - OJSC Surgutneftegas is denying rumors regarding plans to purchase Croatia's INA, the Russian oil company said in a statement.

The statement said: "In connection with a number of press reports in European media that Surgutneftegas allegedly plans to acquire shares of INA Industriya Nafte d.d. (Croatia) we declare that the management of Surgutneftegas has not and is not currently engaged in any discussions with MOL Hungarian Oil and Gas Company Plc. or the Government of the Republic of Croatia, the two largest INA shareholders, in respect of the acquisition of INA shares."

European media reports earlier said that the Surgutneftegas and Hungarian refining concern MOL could swap assets. The reports said that MOL could trade its stake in Ina (47%) for Surgutneftegas' stake in the Hungarian company.

However, MOL's board chairman, Zsolt Hernadi, said that his company was not planning a share swap. He said that MOL was not interest in such a transaction.

In early April Surgutneftegas acquired 21.2% of shares in MOL, which owns refineries in Hungary and neighboring countries, from Austrian OMV for 1.4 billion euro. The deal, which MOL viewed as a hostile acquisition, sparked a political outcry in Hungary.

At the end of April MOL convened a meeting of shareholders that approved amendments to the charter aimed at safeguarding the company from a hostile takeover. Surgutneftegas, which had been prevented from registering as a shareholder, was not admitted to the meeting. Surgutneftegas filed suit in early June over the refusal to include it on the register of shareholders.

Later, Surgutneftegas filed another suit seeking to annul the decisions made by shareholders and the board of directors preventing it from registering as a shareholder. The hearing in the case is scheduled for November 11.