ZAGREB, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Croatia has renewed its pressure to gain a greater say in the running of its largest company, oil and gas group INA, saying its controlling Hungarian shareholder risked conflict with the Balkan country if it ignores government interests.
Finance Minister Slavko Linic told reporters on Thursday it was true Hungary’s MOL, owner of 49.1 percent of INA, could run the company without government input, but it would mean a “war with the Croatian state”.
MOL was not available for immediate comment.
Relations between Zagreb and MOL have been strained for almost two years since MOL failed to become INA’s majority owner in a public bid. Zagreb retains 44.84 percent of the company.
Croatia last September indicted its former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader for allegedly taking a bribe from MOL in 2008 in exchange for securing MOL’s dominant position in INA. Both Sanader and MOL have denied the charges.
Croatia complains that its members on INA’s management board have been sidelined from running the company and that MOL was not investing enough into INA, notably in the modernisation of its refineries.
MOL has denied both claims, saying its management structure was in line with local laws while its investments were often slowed by bureaucratic procedures in Croatia.
Linic said the status quo at INA was not acceptable.
“We want to change the shareholders agreement and bring it in line with the local legislation. We will not accept the current relations within INA,” Linic said, adding: “I‘m still confident we can sort out all the problems, including the management structure.”
Deputy Prime Minister Radimir Cacic told Reuters in an interview Croatia was unhappy because “the management rights (in INA) do not correspond to ownership rights”.
“That is something we need to resolve, but not in a way that could threaten INA’s results. We want INA to be successful and this is happening. INA will end this year with a profit again,” Cacic said.
MOL said this week INA’s management structure was organised so as to make the decision-making process as efficient as possible and that the management board convened whenever necessary, contrary to complaints from its Croatian members. (Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and David Holmes)