MET Energy Holding plans billion-euro M&A deals in Europe - CEO

BUDAPEST, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Swiss-based MET Energy plans to expand rapidly in Europe over the next three years via acquisitions worth at least 1 billion euros ($1.10 billion) once a deal with Singapore conglomerate Keppel Corporation is finalised next month, MET’s CEO said on Monday.

MET, spun off of the Hungarian oil group MOL in 2007, has sold a 20% stake to Keppel for $53 million, the companies said last week. This valued MET at about $250 million, a valuation that CEO Benjamin Lakatos said was insufficient to compete in Europe.

“We have been like a child tiptoeing to see what’s on the table,” Lakatos told Reuters in an interview. “We could not participate in big European deals efficiently. The Keppel partnership will give us the necessary capital requirements for more significant acquisitions.”

Lakatos said he personally wanted MET to clinch 2-5 major deals in all segments of the European electricity and natural gas markets excluding gas exploration and transmission systems.

Met will pay particular attention to liquefied natural gas (LNG) deals in Western Europe, especially in Italy and Spain where it already has a customer base, allowing it to cover the entire supply chain where possible.

Lakatos said he was hopeful that eastern Europe, where many countries rely heavily on Russia for energy, will be able to diversify their access to energy within 3-5 years.

Renewable sources will be added to the mix for these countries as well as new pipelines for natural gas, new LNG capacity in Croatia and recently discovered gas deposits under the Black Sea.

Lakatos said that if most or all of those projects came onstream then the energy market in Eastern europe could be depoliticised, as long as the region has several times the quantity it needs on several routes.

“On the medium turn, politicians may no longer be responsible for supply security in Central and Eastern Europe, but regulation mostly,” he said. “And I will have to employ meteorologists in big numbers,” Lakatos said, referring to the group’s renewable energy interests.

MET has already entered the renewable generation market, with a solar park and a wind park in its portfolio - the latter a joint project in Serbia with a subsidiary of Gazprom .

Russia is the heavyweight in the region, a role that is not about to change, and neither should it, Lakatos said, adding he would welcome more Gazprom deals in the future.

“Market players will want a stable, balanced relationship with Russia, which will remain the most important player in the CEE region for the long term. However, it is crucial for Central and Eastern Europe to have access to the global LNG market.” ($1 = 0.9073 euros) (Reporting by Marton Dunai. Editing by Jane Merriman)