Croatia’s Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Tomislav Ćorić said that the negotiations on buying back Hungarian energy group MOL’s stake in Croatian peer INA would be on hold until after a review of an arbitration award to be instigated at the Swiss Supreme Court.
In 2008, MOL became the largest shareholder in INA by acquiring 49.1 per cent of shares and subsequently obtaining the management control rights over the company, while the Croatian government held 44.8 per cent of shares. Then, in 2011, Croatia’s anti-corruption office, USKOK suspected that the country’s ex-prime minister Ivo Sander had taken bribes so that MOL could obtain management rights. In 2016, Zagreb lost an arbitration process against MOL over this issue before the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).
Now the government is requesting a review of the 2016 decision so to declare null and void an amended agreement on relations between INA shareholders and an agreement on INA’s gas business, both signed in 2009.
“Croatia believes that its legal position is considerably better than it was in 2016,” said Minister Ćorić. ”We believe it’s the only reasonable decision at the moment.”
The review motion may be filed at the Swiss court until 8 February and a response is expected by the end of 2022.
Mr Ćorić underlined that the review doesn’t mean that Croatia’s requests would be granted but it only means that Croatia is looking for the possibility of a new arbitration procedure.
So far the two parties (Croatia’s government and MOL) have had different assessments of the value of the company and the stake, failing to reach a decision on the buyback. However, Mr Ćorić assured that Croatia has the money for what it considers is “the real price” of the stake.