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UPDATE 1-Austria's OMV plays down report of Czech exit
June 24, 2013 / 3:02 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Austria's OMV plays down report of Czech exit

* OMV says not looking to exit integrated markets

* Czech magazine says Unipetrol has had talks with OMV

* Unipetrol looking at acquisitions to boost market share (Updates with OMV comment)

PRAGUE, June 24 (Reuters) - Austrian energy group OMV has no plans to quit retail markets within reach of its refineries, it said on Monday, playing down a report it was in talks to sell its Czech gas stations to Unipetrol.

Czech weekly magazine Euro reported that Czech group Unipetrol, which wants to boost its share in the domestic retail market as part of a $1 billion investment plan, had held talks with OMV over the past several months.

OMV spokesman Johannes Vetter declined to comment directly on the report but suggested the company, which operates 215 station in the Czech Republic and holds a 13 percent market share, would remain.

“We have said there are no plans on the table to exit any integrated markets,” Vetter said. “We have exited the two markets which were not integrated. This was Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia (because) we could not tie them to our own refineries.”

OMV agreed to sell its Croatian filling stations to Croatian oil and gas supplier Crodux Plin in February as it moves away from retail towards exploration. It said at the time that it was selling the Croatian network because it was not within the delivery area of its Schwechat refinery.

It agreed a similar sale in Bosnia-Herzegovina in November.

Unipetrol, majority owned by Poland’s PKN Orlen, is planning to invest up to $1 billion into its petrochemical, refining and retail businesses over the next five years in a bid to return to profit.

It aims to increase its retail market share to 20 percent by 2017 from 14 percent. It has more than 330 filling stations.

Unipetrol Chief Executive Marek Switajewski told Euro that the company was open to acquisitions but declined to comment on specific opportunities.

“We are negotiating with gas station owners, but the talks are confidential,” he was quoted as saying. “I cannot say also whether we are talking with large or small players.”

An Unipetrol spokesman declined to say with whom the company was speaking.

Unipetrol posted net losses in 2011 and last year, hit by a downturn in European markets that has squeezed margins for refiners and left the industry with excess capacity. (Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Mark Potter)

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