Croatia to Investigate INA Trading Before Privatization Caps

Croatia will await the results of an investigation into trading in INA Industrija Nafte d.d. stock before enforcing laws to limit private ownership in the oil and gas company, Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said.

“We will have to change the entire privatization law on INA,” Kosor told the Zagreb-based cabinet today. “Before we do that, we have decided to wait for the investigation results into recent trading in INA shares as the government must protect the interests of the Republic.”

Kosor on March 29 said the government will cap individual holdings in INA at 49 percent. The move would prevent Hungary’s Mol Nyrt, which controls INA, from gaining a majority stake in the refiner. Croatia’s market regulator on March 28 suspended trading in INA shares, saying it acted “following significant trading by foreign investors” and to protect INA’s shareholders.

“The government will seek a solution with Mol while keeping in mind the strategic interests of Croatia,” Kosor said.

Mol holds 47.26 percent of INA, while the Croatian government owns 44.84 percent. Mol won the controlling rights of Croatia’s leading refiner in a 2009 partnership agreement with the government.

“It appears shares were traded in a non-transparent way, and there are allegations of money laundering,” Kosor said. The investigation will focus on funds in Slovakia, Hungary and Cyprus, she said.

‘Irrelevant’

Mol on Dec. 3 offered to buy the outstanding INA shares traded in Zagreb, the majority of which are held by INA employees and other individuals.

The government in December said it hadn’t been notified of Mols’ intentions to acquire a majority stake. It also said it may take steps “to protect its strategic interests in the energy sector” in response to the Hungarian company’s attempt to become INA’s majority shareholder.

Mol “continues to believe the issue of majority ownership is irrelevant,” Mol spokeswoman Andrea Panczel said in March 31 a phone interview.

INA’s share price has jumped 134 percent since Mol’s offer, closing at 4011 kuna ($771) per share on March 25, before trading was suspended.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jasmina Kuzmanovic at jkuzmanovic@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

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