What next for OMV, and for MOL?

August 6, 2008

omv-ceo.jpgFollowing an acrimonious and drawn-out takeover battle for Hungary’s MOL, Austrian oil and gas group OMV finally did as expected: it threw in the towel.

Yet according to OMV Chief Executive Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer, the consolidation pressures in central Europe — the strategic rationale which prompted him to launch the unsolicited offer in the first place — remain in place.

Analysts and investors have often pointed out that OMV could do better with the cash then parking it in a MOL stake. And while OMV sat tight and awaited the outcome of its unwanted approach, MOL busied itself stringing together a network of strategic allies, entering into ventures with Cez from the Czech Republic and Oman’s OOC.

Meanwhile, Ruttenstorfer says he is determined to keep his 20.2 percent stake in MOL, at least for the time being — but he did not rule out a sale in the mid or long-term.

With precious few takeover targets in the region in view, there is not much else Ruttenstorfer can do for now. 

For OMV, its MOL stake could be a lever to get,  for example, a share in MOL’s refining business. 

Ruttenstorfer cited Lukoil’s and Gazpromneft’s interest in the region as one example for increasing consolidation pressures. Though any big investor would likely await the outcome of the European Union ruling on MOL’s 10-percent voting cap, which poses a major obstacle to whoever would set their eyes on a takeover of  the Hungarian group. 

Once this issue has been cleared, OMV’s stake in MOL could prove a valuable card in the consolidation game — whether it would be in a match against one of eastern Europe’s energy majors, or even  a retake of the battle between OMV and MOL.

(Reuters photo: OMV Chief Executive Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer)

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