On 27 September 2007, OMV CEO Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer announced that the company would seek the Commission's support to eventually overcome legislation that is being drafted in Hungary to protect the nation's strategic industries.
In reaction, Oliver Drewes, spokesman for Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, told journalists in Brussels that "the Commission is monitoring the situation very closely in view of potential conflicts with the free movement of capital for example".
In June 2007, the Austrian energy champion announced that it would raise its 10% stake in neighbouring Hungary's MOL, to 18.6%. The bid met resistance from MOL's management as well as from Hungarian competition authorities, who fear that it might create a monopoly. Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany let it be known that he would "use every tool possible to prevent the takeover". The Hungarian government has repeatedly reaffirmed this stance.
The Austrian government, on the other hand, supported the bid. Economy Minister Martin Bartenstein said that he would "examine very closely" any Hungarian law trying to prevent foreign takevoers from within the EU.
When OMV, reacting to MOL's alleged unwillingness to negotiate, made its takeover bid public, MOL claimed that the bid "substantially undervalues MOL's business and prospects and would be value destructive", while OMV tried to soothe Hungarian frustration over proposals to move part of the joint company's administration to Budapest and grant MOL shareholders a stake in the Austrian company.
The move by the Hungarian authorities echoes similar steps taken by the Spanish and French governments to protect their national energy champions from takeovers by European rivals.
In April, E.ON dropped a €42.4 billion offer for Endesa, after an 18-month battle that saw the German utility's bid for the Spanish company thwarted by repeated government intervention. A rival merger bid with a consortium led by Spain's Acciona and Italy's Enel put an end to the battle (EurActiv 3/04/07).
In France, GDF and Suez recently agreed to a state-sponsored merger in what was widely described as an attempt to fend off an upcoming bid by Enel (EurActiv 4/09/07).