ZAGREB, May 7 (Reuters) - The Croatian government and Hungarian oil and gas company MOL resumed the first fresh talks in almost four months on Wednesday on the future of jointly owned Croatian energy firm INA after years of wrangling over it.
The two main stakeholders in Croatia’s biggest utility made no breakthrough but said they had agreed to speed up negotiations.
“Our meeting was held once again in a constructive atmosphere. We agreed to meet again at the end of May, which means acceleration of negotiations,” said MOL Chief Executive Jozsef Molnar, who headed the firm’s delegation in Zagreb.
Croatia’s chief negotiator, Economy Minister Ivan Vrdoljak, also said the talks should gain pace now.
“The constructive atmosphere gives me hope that an agreement is now closer,” he told reporters, without elaborating.
The two sides had failed to make headway in three previous rounds of talks, which kicked off eight months ago.
Zagreb says MOL has failed to invest enough in INA’s development and modernisation since it became a shareholder 11 years ago.
MOL complains that Croatia is slow in issuing licences for investment projects and cites Zagreb’s failure to take over INA’s gas trading business, as agreed in 2008, which inflicted major losses on INA due to the caps on gas prices.
INA drills for oil and gas, including operations in Africa and the Middle East, and runs two refineries in Croatia, where it is by far the dominant fuel retailer.
MOL is INA’s biggest shareholder with just under 50 percent, while the Croatian government holds nearly 45 percent.
Croatia has insisted that the management rights in INA should be redefined so that the government has an equal say in its strategic decision-making.
MOL has refused to give up management control of INA and has said clearly it will sell its INA stake to Croatia or a third party unless it secures an agreement that can lead to “value creation”.
“We are ready to negotiate in good faith but not at any cost,” Molnar said on Wednesday. (Reporting by Igor Ilic; Writing by Zoran Radosavljevic; editing by Jane Baird)