October 16, 2013 / 11:58 AM / in 4 years

MOL's shares fall on press speculation about Norway fund

BUDAPEST, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Shares in MOL fell sharply on Wednesday partly in response to a local press report which suggested that Norway’s $790 billion sovereign wealth fund might consider selling its holding in the Hungarian energy company.

Hungarian business daily Napi Gazdasag, citing the ethics rules of Norway’s $790 billion wealth fund, said that based on those rules, the fund might consider selling its MOL shares, without giving any sources.

A MOL spokesman dismissed the Napi Gazdasag report as speculation. “This press report is mere speculation, it lacks any foundation,” Domokos Szollar told Reuters.

At the end of 2012, the latest period for which data is available, the fund, known as the oil fund, held a 1.64 percent stake in MOL.

The Norwegian finance ministry’s ethics council declined to comment on the Napi Gazdasag report.

Norway has ordered a review of the fund and is also looking at the fund’s investment ethics and has expressed concern over investments in oil companies Royal Dutch Shell and Eni . It did not mention MOL in any way.

According to the Norwegian wealth fund's ethical guidelines, the Ministry of Finance makes decisions on the exclusion of companies from the investment portfolio on the advice of an ethics council. (For the full guidelines see: here)

“There was this morning’s news about the Norway fund - who knows whether it’s true or not. But in any case, the market in MOL has been nervous for weeks because of INA,” an analyst at a local brokerage said.

He said stop-loss selling also contributed to MOL’s falls. Another analyst and a stock trader also said MOL fell because of the press report.

MOL is in a dispute with the Croatian government over its near 50 percent stake and management rights in Croatian energy company INA.

The pair began negotiations over their shareholder agreement last month.

Croatia also issued an Interpol and European arrest warrant for MOL chief Zsolt Hernadi earlier this month in a bribery case. MOL has denied all the accusations.

MOL’s shares at 0955 GMT traded at 14,705 forints, down 3.7 percent from Tuesday, underperforming the wider Budapest market. . The shares had fallen more than 5 percent earlier in the day. (Reporting by Krisztina Than, additional reporting by Balazs Koranyi in Oslo. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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