OMV Redoubles Effort to Take Over MOL

OMV, Central Europe's largest oil and gas company, said Tuesday it is redoubling its efforts to take over Hungary's MOL and has launched legal proceedings in an attempt to stop the Hungarian government from blocking the acquisition.

Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer, CEO of the Austrian petroleum giant, urged MOL's board of directors to remove all hurdles to the deal and let shareholders decide for themselves.

"The financial benefits of the offer we would be prepared to make and the strategic rationale have received a strong reception from both OMV shareholders and the shareholders of MOL," Ruttenstorfer said.

In June, OMV increased its stake in MOL to 18.6 percent and announced its interest in acquiring the company. But Hungarian authorities have fiercely resisted the move, denouncing it as an attempted hostile takeover of a company regarded as a strategically important national treasure.

If MOL's board does not respond to OMV's latest overtures, the Austrian company said it was prepared to initiate an extraordinary general meeting "to enable all of MOL's shareholders to exercise their rights as owners of the company."

OMV's buyout offer -- valued at about 14 billion euros ($20.5 billion) -- would boost its standing as a major player in the global oil and gas market.

OMV said its lawsuit would seek to abolish a voting limit the Hungarian government now imposes that currently allows MOL shareholders -- regardless of how large a stake they hold in the company -- a maximum voting power equaling 10 percent of all votes cast.

That limit prevents investors from effectively gaining control of the company even if they acquire well over a majority of all shares.

OMV on Tuesday also called on the European Commission to declare Hungary in violation of EU antitrust regulations.

Last spring, OMV angered the U.S. government by announcing a preliminary agreement with Iranian officials to develop Iran's Pars gas fields. Washington warned that the deal would undermine sanctions against Iran meant to keep it from obtaining nuclear weaponry.

OMV's holdings include a majority stake in Romania's Petrom, now known as OMV Petrom, which the Austrian company acquired in 2004.