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MOL share sale demonstrates return of investor confidence, says Draskovics

The conclusion of an accelerated equity offering (AEO) in shares of Hungarian oil company MOL is a remarkable success for MOL, privatization agency APV and Hungary, according finance minister Tibor Draskovics. "No matter how successful MOL is, it wouldn't matter unless there were confidence in the Hungarian economy," Draskovics said regarding the conditions for the successful transaction.

APV sold a total of 11,316,000 series A ordinary shares in MOL on 17 February to institutional investors in an AEO led by Citigroup. The sale represents 10.5% of MOL's total capital. At a price of HUF 6500 per share – a 3% discount compared to Tuesday's closing price of HUF 6700 – total revenue from the transaction was HUF 73.6 billion (USD 360 million). APV's ownership in MOL decreased from 22.7% to 12.2% as a result of the transaction.

Citigroup's Guy Harington said this was Hungary's first AEO, stressing that the technique can only be successful in "the most sophisticated markets." The method combines "speed, confidentiality and very tight pricing," he noted. Draskovics declared that the fact that APV was able to put together an AEO of this size shows that the privatizer is a "mature business organization."

APV's remaining shares in MOL are subject to a 180-day lockup, except for a small domestic retail offering that will take place in early March. APV has made no decision yet regarding its remaining stake, said CEO Miklos Kamaras.

There were over 30 AEOs in Europe in September–December 2003, APV said. Transactions included TPSA (Poland), Lukoil (Russia), OTE (Greece), Thomson and Renault (France), Cesky Telekom (Czech Republic) and Deutsche Telekom (Germany).

The "return of investor confidence" has become a keyword in economic policy, as central bank MNB stresses that there will be no possibility for lower interest rates until confidence is restored. The MNB enacted a 300 basis point hike in its base rate in December, to 12.50%. Shaken investor confidence and the MNB rate hike capsized a planned joint share offering by APV and MOL in December 2003.

(Interfax 1.iii.04)

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