Austria's OMV to spell out green transition in strategy revamp

The logo of Austrian oil and gas group OMV is pictured at a gas station in Vienna, Austria
The logo of Austrian oil and gas group OMV is pictured at a gas station in Vienna November 6, 2014. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bade

VIENNA, March 15 (Reuters) - Austrian energy group OMV (OMVV.VI) will turn the page from its embrace of Russia and could signal a gradual exit from its oil and gas business when it presents its strategy under new Chief Executive Alfred Stern on Wednesday.

After Stern took over as CEO last year, the plastics engineer announced the biggest change in OMV's history - a shift to specialty plastics built around its blockbuster purchase of petrochemical group Borealis.

A spin-off of the oil business is not planned, and a sale of OMV's majority stake in Romanian group Petrom (ROSNP.BX) is also unlikely, but Romania could gain strategic importance as the company plots a greener, more sustainable path.

Austria's largest industrial group joins oil giants BP and Shell (SHEL.L) in gradually saying goodbye to oil and gas, but unlike them it is focusing on plastics, biofuels and the circular economy rather than renewable energy.

It remains to be seen, however, how quickly Austria's biggest CO2 emitter can complete the transformation without taking severe economic losses.

It has said that no more oil and gas would be produced by 2050 at the latest. That timetable seems unambitious but analysts say a quick exit is unlikely given high energy prices at a time when it needs to finance its restructuring.

What is certain is that Russia will no longer be a core region after Moscow's attack on Ukraine.

This is a sharp reversal from the strategy of Stern's predecessor, Rainer Seele, a German who cultivated close contacts with Russia as head of oil and gas company Wintershall and at OMV brokered several deals with Gazprom .

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, OMV has said it will no longer invest in Russia and is looking at exiting its 25% stake in the Yuzhno Russkoye gas field it bought from Germany's Uniper (UN01.DE) for 1.7 billion euros ($1.87 billion). It also faces a hit of up to 1.8 billion euros from disengaging in Russia, including the halted Nord Stream 2 pipeline it helped finance. read more

OMV shares have lost about 16% since the outbreak of the war to around 42.29 euros.

Erste Group analyst Tamas Pletser said the war in Ukraine could galvanise Romania to approve a new offshore law that could pave the way for the Neptune gas project in the Black Sea. OMV, which has a 50% stake via a subsidiary, has not yet given the green light for the project, whose potential is estimated at 50 billion cubic metres of gas.

($1 = 0.9098 euros)

Writing by Michael Shields; Editing by Susan Fenton

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