Croatia gets three bids for INA stake
Austria's OMV, Hungary's MOL and Rosneft of Russia have submitted bids for a 25-per cent stake in Croatian state-owned oil and gas firm INA, Economy Minister Ljubo Jurcic said yesterday.Jurcic said the strategic partner for Croatia's largest state company would be chosen by the end of March but told reporters details of the bids would not be revealed immediately."The bids are binding but not final. There will be further talks with all three bidders, so we cannot reveal financial aspects at this stage," he said.Advisers PriceWaterhouse-Coopers and Deutsche Bank have estimated INA to be worth 1.2 billion to 1.8 billion euros.Jurcic said he was pleased with the quality of offers, which contained a financial bid and a business plan for INA's development and expansion in the region.Croatia shortlisted the three bidders from a list of ten, mostly regional companies and no Western oil giants, in July.
The government removed a fourth bidder, Italian Edison Gas, from the list because it had meanwhile formed an impromptu consortium with Greek Hellenic Petroleum, which had not made it to the shortlist.Philip Wolfe of Deutsche Bank said the privatization advisers would evaluate the bids by the end of this month. "Talks will continue in February and March with a view to signing by end-March," he said.The government has made clear that cash will not be the only factor in its decision on INA, which many in Croatia see as the last of the country's "family silver" to beprivatised. OMV and MOL, both based in landlocked central Europe, have long been interested in INA because of its proximity to the Adriatic and potentialfor expansion in the Balkans. "MOL believes that the combination of its regional market experience, operational management skills and financial strength positions it best to become INA's long-term strategic partner," MOL said in a statement.
Sector analysts believe that for both companies, already present in Croatia and neighbouring Slovenia, buying INA would help them expand their refining and marketing potential.Like other Russian oil companies, Rosneft has very good cash flow and ample crude production but needs new markets.