UPDATE 1-MOL says debt-to-EBITDA ratio around 2 at end-08
* Committed to maintaining "healthy financial position"
* Some flexibility in banking covenants
* Shares down 4.9 pct (Updates with detail, stock price)
BUDAPEST, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Hungarian oil and gas firm MOL MOLB.BU said on Friday its net debt was around two times its EBITDA at the end of 2008, well below the 2.74 ratio estimated in a research note by ING Bank.
"In the fourth quarter, despite the difficult environment, MOL managed to keep its net debt-to-EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) ratio at a very healthy level, around two," spokeswoman Dora Somlyai told Reuters.
"MOL's management is committed to maintain this strong financial position in the future as well," Somlyai added.
ING estimated on Friday that MOL's ratio of net debt to EBITDA rose to 2.74 at the end of the year and may breach 3 this year, which could breach MOL's banking covenants.
MOL, the country's biggest company by sales, added that its purchase of an additional 22.15 percent stake in Croatia's INA was already reflected in third-quarter data and fourth-quarter debt figures will not be affected by INA.
The company also said that while its banking covenant stipulated a debt-to-EBITDA ratio of three, this figure may be somewhat higher under certain circumstances, which the company declined to detail.
ING said that should MOL break its banking covenants, it would have to pay a heavy price to refinance debt.
"Currently the company pays an average 40 basis point premium over EURIBOR for its major euro-denominated debt, which would jump to 500bp, at least, if MOL had to refinance debt in the current environment," ING said.
The bank added that declining profitability and falls in the forint, which increases the forint value of MOL's debt denominated in euros, are the chief threats to debt-to-EBITDA levels.
MOL will release its fourth-quarter earnings report on Feb. 27 and declined to provide further figures ahead of the release.
At 1027 GMT, MOL shares traded down 4.9 percent while the benchmark BUX .BUX index was down 5.5 percent.
(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Erica Billingham)
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