Meddling Hungary government seeks to cut MOL’s ties to Russia

I’ve been writing about Hungary’s chemical sector for around a decade, observing with fascination the efforts of Russian energy and chemical companies to gain a foothold there. BorsodChem, MOL and its petrochemical subsidiary TVK have all been the targets of more or less surreptitious efforts, often by Russian companies operating through subsidiaries or holding companies elsewhere.

With the country’s recent history in mind, it is not surprising that Hungarians want to resist ceding control of their national assets to the Russians. However, in a free market global economy such attempts by governments are of questionable validity. As a mid-sized player, I think MOL would benefit from consolidating either to the west or east. Hungary also blocked an attempted takeover by Austria’s OMV. 

Now Hungary’s government is to start talks with Russia’s Surgutneftegaz in an attempt to persuade the Russian company to give up its 21.2% stake in MOL.

According to ICIS news, the new Hungarian government was of the opinion that the stake would be “better off in Hungarian hands” rather than in those of an investor that both ministers and MOL saw as unwelcome.

MOL has refused to consider any cooperation with Surgutneftegaz since in 2009 it acquired the shareholding from Austria’s OMV without giving any advance notification to MOL or the Hungarian government.

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