WARSAW Russian fertiliser maker Acron (AKRN.MM) is in talks with Poland's treasury ministry on selling its stake in the country's biggest chemicals group, state-run Azoty ATTP.WA, two sources familiar with the situation said.
Acron tried to buy a controlling stake in Azoty Tarnow in 2012 but Poland considered the move a hostile takeover and blocked the bid by merging Azoty with state-run rivals.
The Russian firm ended up with 13-percent of Azoty, which it hiked to 20 percent in 2014. Earlier in 2016 it sold a small stake, raising questions over its longer-term plans.
"The Russians are in talks with the treasury ministry over the sale of its stake in Grupa Azoty," a person familiar with the situation said.
"Poland wants to buy the Acron's stake, financing the deal is the issue," another source said.
A source also said that Acron had approached the treasury ministry under the previous government.
Shares in Azoty trade at 66 zlotys each, which values Acron's stake at around 1.3 billion zlotys ($341 million). Sources said that the treasury ministry is currently considering various options regarding how to buy Azoty shares.
According to one of the sources, the treasury named the state-run gas firm PGNiG PGN.WA as a potential buyer. PGNiG, which is the key gas supplier to Azoty, had more than 8 billion zlotys in cash at the end of June.
But a source close to the company said PGNiG is unlikely to buy the stake as it is already engaged in helping rescue the coal mining sector. PGNiG was not immediately available to comment.
The treasury ministry also has a special fund, worth around 4.8 billion zlotys, at its disposal, which it can use to buy shares in listed companies.
A spokesman for the treasury ministry declined to confirm talks were underway.
Acron also declined to comment.
Poland has been reluctant to allow its historical adversary Russia to gain a foothold in certain sectors. Relations with Russia have cooled since the conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) came to power, which has been critical of Russian policy over Ukraine and is in favour of keeping EU sanctions on Moscow.
($1 = 3.8153 zlotys)
(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Additional reporting by Andrey Kuzmin in Moscow; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)