Mol, the Hungarian oil group, on Monday rebuffed a call by OMV, an Austrian rival, for takeover talks.
The approach came as OMV said it had spent about €1bn to increase its stake in Mol from 10 per cent to 18.6 per cent
Although OMV’s voting rights in Mol are capped at 10 per cent, Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer, the Austrian group’s chief executive, said: “We think the company will listen a bit more carefully to a shareholder that has 18.6 per cent than to one that has 10 per cent: of course, only if we make proposals that are in the interests of all shareholders.”
Mr Ruttenstorfer stressed that he wanted “friendly discussions” with Mol’s management, while leaving open his options for taking a larger stake or bidding.
The chief executive told the Financial Times that he expected the central European oil and gas industry to face growing pressure from consolidation. “The only thing we want from Mol’s management is a friendly and constructive discussion about how we answer these common challenges.”
However, Szabolcs Ferenc, Mol communications director, said it would not accept the proposal and criticised OMV’s tactics.
“This is not a friendly way of doing things, to first buy a stake and then ask for a discussion. We simply see that they want to eliminate competition,” he said.
Mol is Hungary’s biggest company with a market capitalisation of about €11.6bn, compared with OMV’s €12.8bn. An alliance would see the companies dominate refining and fuel markets from Austria to the Black Sea.
An OMV takeover of Mol would boost the planned Nabucco pipeline project to bring natural gas from the Caspian to central Europe. Both OMV and Mol are part of the consortium and OMV is the lead organiser.