March 11 (Bloomberg) -- Croatia and Mol Nyrt. need to reach an agreement on managing Zagreb-based refiner INA Industrija Nafte d.d. to help make the regional energy industry more secure, a U.S. official said.
Amos Hochstein, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary for energy diplomacy, is holding talks in Zagreb and Budapest with both sides of the dispute to help broker a solution. The government has accused Mol officials of taking control of INA under fraudulent means, while Mol has said the country has breached contractual obligations.
“It’s most important for both sides to work together and come to an understanding on how to run INA in the best possible way,” Hochstein said in an interview in Zagreb today. “And that means how to run INA as a profitable company and how to make sure the government feels it’s serving the economic interests of Croatia as well.”
Croatia and Mol have filed cross-claims in arbitration court in their three-year-long fight over control INA. Mol on Oct. 3 said it may sell its controlling stake, while Russian Deputy Premier Arkady Dvorkovich told Zagreb-based Jutarnji List in January that Russian oil and natural gas companies would be interested in buying into INA.
He declined to name any company at the time.
Hochstein said that keeping INA under joint ownership is “without a doubt” the best option for the company and for the strategic interests of the Balkan energy sector. Mol owns 49.1 percent of INA, while Croatia has 44.84 percent.
“Let me be clear, Croatia and Hungary are strategic partners,” Hochstein said. “They have been, they are now, and they should be in the future.”
Hochstein, met with Croatian Economy Minister Ivan Vrdoljak and INA managers yesterday. He left Zagreb today to continue talks with the Hungarian government and Mol.
“I’m optimistic their differences can be bridged, as there are well-meaning people on both sides who will focus on what is good for INA, and by extension, what is good for Croatia,” Hochstein said.
Hochstein also said the U.S. is helping Croatia secure financing for a planned liquefied-natural-gas terminal on the Adriatic island of Krk. He has discussed the Krk project with the European Union to help gain backing from Brussels.
“Our goal has always been to provide energy security through the diversification of energy sources in Europe,” Hochstein said.
INA’s stock was trading at 3,301 kuna per share at 2:12 p.m., in Zagreb, the lowest since Jan. 12, 2011. Mol’s shares were trading at 13,105 forint at 2:27 p.m. in Budapest, the lowest since March 3.
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