MOL's strategy director Akos Kassai spoke on MOL’s potential acquisitions to the press at a Budapest conference yesterday. Mr Kassai said that MOL is still interested in CEE expansion opportunities, but also see potential in other European target countries and regions such as Austria, Northern Italy, Southern Germany, Turkey, Greece and Sicily. MOL has also recently examined investment opportunities in Canada involving a company "developing and researching fields". Mr. Kassai added that MOL has to think beyond CEE, where expansion opportunities are limited. Expansion is essential for MOL to help keep its independence, he said. "Those companies that are listed and do not grow and do not rush forward become the target of buyouts," Kassai added. MOL would look at targets of any size, but it is not considering a deal with Austria's OMV, Kassai told reporters.
Our view: The news bang in line with a the statement of MOL Chairman Zsolt Hernadi who recently revealed that MOL has some 15 acquisition opportunities on the table, along with 50 capital investment projects related to existing facilities. We are neutral on MOL’s expansion plans until we have no information on the price. We also note, however, that a forced expansion into unknown markets could pose a risk for shareholders. If MOL cannot reinvest its money at the return shareholders expect, it is much better to optimize capital structure through paying out more for shareholders or start buying own shares.