* Agreed to buy Eni’s minority stake in Ceska Rafinerska
* Unipetrol has pre-emption right to buy Ceska stake -MOL (Adds PKN comment, updates MOL share price)
By Krisztina Than
BUDAPEST, May 7 (Reuters) - Hungarian oil and gas group MOL said it had agreed to buy Eni’s Czech, Slovak and Romanian units, including 208 filling stations, in a move to build market share, particularly in the Czech retail market.
MOL said on Wednesday it had also signed an agreement to buy the Italian oil company’s minority stake in Ceska Rafinerska, though that would still have to be offered first to the majority owner, Czech oil company Unipetrol, based on its pre-emption right. MOL declined to disclose the price.
Unipetrol will analyse whether to acquire the minority stake in its Ceska Rafinerska unit once it receives an offer from Eni, Poland’s PKN Orlen, the majority owner of Unipetrol, said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
MOL said the acquisition was in line with its strategy to increase retail market share significantly within the supply radius of its core refineries.
MOL has four refineries in Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia, and was operating over 1,700 filling stations in Central Eastern Europe and the Balkans at the end of last year. Ceska Rafinerska operates two Czech refineries.
Tamas Pletser, a oil and gas sector analyst at Erste, said MOL’s expansion of its network of filling stations in the region was positive, because its share would grow in the Czech, Slovak and Romanian markets. The region’s economies are recovering from a slowdown in past years.
“It’s basically positive but would be good to know the price they paid for this,” Pletser said.
MOL’s shares rose 1.3 percent after the announcement and outperformed the wider Budapest market but gave back most of those gains to trade 0.3 percent higher at 12,775 forints at 1342 GMT.
MOL said its market share in the Czech Republic, where it adds 125 filling stations in the deal, would grow above 10 percent, making it the second-largest motor fuel retailer in the country in terms of network share.
It said the closing of the transaction with Eni was subject to obtaining an anti-monopoly clearance.
Some analysts said the expansion of its retail network could generate only limited gains for MOL.
Attila Vago, a senior analyst at Concorde, said that based on the assumption that MOL achieves a rate of return of 10 percent per year on its newly acquired wholesale and retail assets, the transaction could add 3-4 percent to MOL’s annual net income from 2015 onwards. MOL will publish first-quarter flash results on Thursday.
Vago also said Unipetrol would probably buy Eni’s minority stake in Ceska Rafinerska to have full ownership of the refineries, given that it had recently boosted its stake.
Western firms have been pulling out of the Czech refining sector, which has suffered losses from low margins.
Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babis said last month that he would seek an agreement with PKN that would secure the long-term operation of the Czech refineries at Kralupy and Litvinov. (Additional reporting by Marcin Goettig in Warsaw; Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Jane Baird)