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Austria Backstabbing Hungary on Energy

omv040209.jpgIt has been a while since we have blogged about ye ‘ole energy struggle between the Austrian company OMV and the Hungarian company MOL, which last year seemed to be on the cusp of blowing up into a major dispute over minority shareholder rights with Russian state companies pulling the strings.  I recall that it was once described as a fight that no matter how it came out, Gazprom would end up winning.

Well, that’s exactly what has happened, as eventually the Austrians, who do quite a lot of banking with less-than-transparent Russian energy traders (they were even involved at one point in a money laundering investigation related to the murder of a central banker), finally gave in to Russian demands to serve as a trojan horse, passing their 21% ownership of MOL into the hands of Surgutneftegaz, which has suddenly become Igor Sechin’s favorite private company.

The response in Hungary to the Austrian move was outrage:  “Suspicion arises … that because the Russian investor bought this stake at exactly the input price, it [OMV] was just a front. (…) Looking at the kinds of business activities Mol has in Russia, and the kind of partners we have in Russia, our business falls outside Surgutneftegas’s range of activities.  This was certainly not a friendly bid and it is very strange that somebody has chosen to pay OMV precisely enough to cover its costs in buying and holding Mol’s shares over the past few years,” said MOL Chairman Zsolt Hernadi to the Financial Times.

The surrender of Hungary to Russian energy imperialism has been a long time in the making, and now, opposition leader Viktor Obran appears to have been right when he described his country as “Gazprom’s most cheerful barracks.