OMV stands by MOL offer, MOL rebuffs

VIENNA Wed Oct 17, 2007 2:13pm BST

Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Executive Board of OMV, gestures during the Reuters Central European Investment Summit in Vienna October 17, 2007. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer

Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Executive Board of OMV, gestures during the Reuters Central European Investment Summit in Vienna October 17, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Herwig Prammer

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VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian oil firm OMV (OMVV.VI) said on Wednesday it stands firmly by its offer for Hungarian rival MOL MOLB.BU and may later revise the price, but MOL again rebuffed the approach it believes has "definitely failed".

OMV expects the takeover battle to drag on, possibly for up to three years, OMV Chief Executive Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer told the Reuters Central European Investment Summit. But the company will revisit its 32,000 forint a share offer once all obstacles to its bid are removed, he said.

"Never say never," Ruttenstorfer said when asked whether OMV would consider lifting the offer. "(But) for the time being, that's definitely our offer."

OMV, which holds just over 20 percent of MOL, has proposed a merger which would value MOL at $20 billion.

MOL again rejected the offer on Wednesday, saying a merger would destroy shareholder value, lower competition and create a regional monopoly.

"It is exactly for this reason that we say that the European Union would never approve this merger," MOL Chief Executive Gyorgy Mosonyi said. "Therefore, I very much hope that OMV shareholders have a plan B, because plan A (for a takeover) has definitely failed."

Ruttenstorfer said the proposal was not yet a formal offer as it was hindered by several obstacles. A firm offer would come only if MOL's voting cap is lifted, the Hungarian government gives up its special voting rights and MOL's management gives up control over around 40 percent of the firm's stock.

OMV HAS TIME

MOL has repeatedly rejected the offer and has refused to negotiate with its Austrian peer.

OMV's Ruttenstorfer said his firm was prepared for a battle that could take up to three years, and has looked to the European Union for help.

"We are under no time pressure, we are very committed to the action," Ruttenstorfer said. "But we cannot do it on our own, Brussels has to decide, independent shareholders have to decide."

EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McGreevy warned Hungary earlier this month it could face legal action over new takeover rules.

Hungary's parliament passed legislation, dubbed "lex-MOL", to make hostile takeovers in key energy sectors more difficult.

Ruttenstorfer said OMV has not made any decision about whether to call an extraordinary general meeting at MOL. With MOL's management controlling 40 percent of the firm's stock through treasury shares and other financial vehicles, OMV was not likely to succeed in pushing through its proposal.

MOL, which is advised by UBS and Morgan Stanley, also hired Goldman Sachs (GS.N) last week to advise it in its bid defense.

Ruttenstorfer also said OMV was not under time pressure as there were no other sizable takeover targets in Central Europe to focus on. "There is nothing on the horizon," he said.

For summit blog: summitnotebook.reuters.com/)

(Additional reporting by Gergely Szakacs in Budapest)

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