Croatia to start talks with Hungary's MOL on INA buyback

ZAGREB, June 10 (Reuters) - Croatia expects to start talks with Hungarian energy group MOL on a possible buyback of shares in Croatian gas and oil company INA by the end of June, the country’s Energy and Environment Minister Tomislav Coric said.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in 2016 that the government would try to buy MOL’s almost 50% INA stake, after years of rows over its management and investment policies.

Zagreb, which controls close to 45% of INA, hired Lazard to advise it on the possibility of buying back the INA shares from MOL and the investment bank presented the government with its preliminary assessment of the costs on Wednesday.

“We expect the first meeting with MOL representatives by the end of this month and the final assessment from Lazard in July,” Coric said, adding that Croatia had yet to decide whether to try to buy the INA shares on its own or with a strategic partner.

MOL has said it is ready to discuss the sale of INA to Croatia, which is due to hold parliamentary elections on July 5.

The outcome of this vote could influence plans for INA as Plenkovic’s centre-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) is running neck-and-neck in opinion polls with the opposition Social Democrats. (Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Alexander Smith)