Austria to investigate OMV chief over share buy

VIENNA, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Austrian financial watchdog FMA has asked the state prosecutor's office to investigate the chief executive of Austrian oil and gas group OMV OMVV.VI over a share trade he made, a prosecutor's spokesman said on Wednesday.

OMV said the FMA’s move was groundless and denied any wrongdoing by Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer.

The FMA had said in April that it was investigating a share purchase made by Ruttenstorfer shortly before a company stake sale was announced.

OMV's website said at the time that Ruttenstorfer bought 620,000 euros ($892,300) worth of OMV stock on March 23, a week before OMV sold its 21 percent stake in Hungarian peer MOL MOLB.BU on March 30.

The sale of the MOL stake to Russia's Surgutneftegaz SNGS.MM for 1.4 billion euros was at almost twice MOL's current share price, allowing OMV to exit the stake without a loss. OMV's shares rose 3.3 percent on the day.

Ruttenstorfer’s trade, which more than doubled his holding in the company to 40,030 shares, was published on OMV’s website on March 25, five days before the MOL deal was announced.

The prosecutor’s spokesman, Gerhard Jarosch, said his Vienna office had received a request from the FMA on Tuesday to investigate Ruttenstorfer on suspicion of insider trading. The investigation would determine whether Ruttenstorfer should be charged.

FMA officials could not be reached for comment.

OMV’s spokeswoman Michaela Huber said the FMA’s move was baseless.

“In connection with the investigation we provided the facts clearly and openly to the authorities,” she told Reuters.

“Mr Ruttenstorfer’s own investment in OMV was duly reported to the FMA and the public through an announcement on our home page and cannot be seen to have any connection with the sale of MOL shares. This was carried out in accordance (with the law),” she said.

OMV said in April it had observed all relevant corporate governance regulations in the share sale and Ruttenstorfer had heeded all director dealings rules in his March 23 transaction. ($1=.6948 euros) (Reporting by Christian Gutlederer; Writing by Mark Heinrich)