Hungary's MOL says OMV may have been Russian front

Wed Apr 1, 2009 10:36am BST

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* MOL says Surgut's approach will not be considered friendly

* Govt, opposition promise to stake stand against takeover

BUDAPEST, April 1 (Reuters) - Austrian OMV's (OMVV.VI) sale of its stake in MOL to a Russian investor earlier this week raises the suspicion that OMV was always just a front for the Russian group, Hungarian oil company MOL MOLB.BU said.

"If you look at the numbers, OMV's sales price is almost to the penny its input price, that is, its purchase price plus interest minus dividends, you know the formula," MOL's Executive Chairman Zsolt Hernadi said on Wednesday.

"Suspicion arises ... that because the Russian investor bought this stake at exactly the input price, it (OMV) was just a front," Hernadi told Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee.

"We don't know," Hernadi added.

Russian oil producer Surgutneftegaz (SNGS.MM) said on Monday it would buy 21 percent of MOL from OMV for 1.4 billion euros ($1.9 billion), or nearly twice MOL's trading price on the Budapest bourse on the previous Friday.

"This can never become a friendly approach, it will never be considered friendly," Hernadi said. "The question is whether we'll consider it hostile or just uncoordinated."

OMV spokesman Thomas Huemer responded to Hernadi's comments by quoting part of an article from Tuesday's edition of Austrian daily Die Presse.

"During the summer of 2007, MOL CEO Zsolt Hernadi ... made it clear to OMV that he would rather sell to any Russian oil giant instead of to OMV," the paper said in its report.

"Now nine years since OMV first showed interest in the Hungarian rival, his wish has been fulfilled."

OMV's sale came after MOL spent much of 2007 and 2008 successfully repelling a takeover attempt by OMV.

"I have to agree with the Alfa Bank trader who said he'd love to hire that salesman who can sell a 21 percent financial investment at a double the market price," Hernadi said.

MOL earlier said Surgut has not coordinated its purchase with the company and MOL continues to seek an independent strategy.

Both Hungary's government and opposition said they supported MOL's independence and promised to do all they can to prevent Surgut from taking over the company. (Reporting by Balazs Koranyi in Budapest and Slyvia Westall in Vienna; Editing by Andrew Macdonald)

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