OMV CEO set to face insider trading changes
* OMV CEO faces charges over 2009 share sale
* Ruttenstorfer denies any wrongdoing
* Could face up to three years imprisonment if found guilty
By Sylvia Westall
VIENNA, Jan 27 (Reuters) - The chief executive of Austrian oil and gas group OMV (OMVV.VI) will appear in court on Thursday to defend himself against insider trading charges.
Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer has denied there was any wrongdoing in a share purchase he made in 2009, shortly before OMV announced a divestment that sent its stock higher.
Ruttenstorfer, chief executive since 2002, could face up to three years imprisonment if found guilty of insider trading. He could also face lesser charges or a fine.
He has said prosecutors were under pressure to use the case to prove their ability to secure a conviction for insider trading.
Austria has only convicted one person before for the crime and gave him a suspended sentence, according to the financial watchdog FMA.
Ruttenstorfer's contract as CEO expires in March and OMV stock -- which closed up 1.2 percent at 32.10 euros on Wednesday -- has mostly not reacted to developments in the months-long case.
Last August, the FMA asked state prosecutors to investigate the 60-year-old Ruttenstorfer over the share trade which it had been probing for months.
Ruttenstorfer bought 620,000 euros worth of OMV stock on March 23, 2009. A week later OMV sold its 21 percent stake in Hungarian refiner MOL MOLB.BU, which it had tried and failed to take over.
The sale of the MOL stake to Russian group Surgutneftegaz (SNGS.MM) for 1.4 billion euros ($1.9 billion) was at almost twice MOL's share price at the time, allowing OMV to exit MOL without a loss. OMV shares rose 3 percent from 24.29 euros before the news emerged.
Ruttenstorfer has said the trade, which more than doubled his holding in the company to 40,030 shares, was correctly reported and unsuitable for short-term speculation.
He has said he bought the shares as part of a long-term bonus programme and had to hold them for three years.
The investigation also centred around an interview Ruttenstorfer gave to an Austrian magazine days before the divestment, in which he said OMV would hold on to the stake that year. He has been fined 20,000 euros in that case for market manipulation.
Prosecutors, who have declined to comment in detail on the case, said in their charge sheet Ruttenstorfer was a "primary insider" and therefore liable to up to three years imprisonment.
Ruttenstorfer, also on the board of Swiss drugmaker Roche (ROG.VX), has worked for a total of 31 years at OMV, one of the largest energy companies operating in emerging Europe.
He served under former Social Democrat Chancellor Viktor Klima, who also started his career at OMV, from 1997-99.
OMV has a market capitalisation of about 9.5 billion euros, making it Austria's second-largest listed company behind Erste Group Bank (ERST.VI). (Additional reporting by Christian Gutlederer and Michael Shields; Editing by Dan Lalor) ($1 = 0.7309 euro)
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