The entry into force on the Romanian electricity market of the Hungarian company MET Holding AG is in the attention of the Competition Council, which analyzes the transaction by which MET takes over the German energy and gas supplier RWE Romania. The transaction, an economic concentration that exceeds the thresholds set by the law, raises great questions because of the Hungarian company’s shareholding, in which Hungarian oligarchs close to Viktor Orban and Russian businessmen with connections to the Kremlin emerged in recent years.
The real shareholding of the Hungarian company is all the more important as MET is one of the companies that won the BRUA pipeline capacity auction, the EU-funded gas pipeline that would take the Romanian Black Sea gas to the West. In other words, MET and MFGT (another Hungarian company owned by the Hungarian state-owned MVM) would control the gas flow exported from Romania to Hungary, a strategic project for both Bucharest and the European Union, which aims at precisely the fall in the Member States’ dependence on natural gas in Russia.
As a result of this acquisition, announced in June, MET is among the top three suppliers on the competitive energy market in Romania, with a 10% share.
The official data on the Hungarian company’s MET website shows that the company had been dropped exactly one month ago, in May, by the Russian shareholders who have been running over the years. But a February 2016 study by the German Council on Foreign Relations thinks that the MET has turned into a private sucker for public money in Hungary, a company in which are the interests of the Hungarian oligarchs, the Russians and the government,Viktor Orban. The quoted analysis shows that the Hungarian government virtually gave MET the monopoly of access to the gas pipeline to Austria, an operation from which the Hungarian state lost, and the obscure shareholders, hidden in offshore companies in Cyprus and Belize, made huge profits. The analysis also shows that the trade scheme, concluded in 2015, could not have worked without the consent of Gazprom, the Russian company that produces the gas marketed by MET.
An October 2016 journalistic survey conducted by the 444.hu portal and taken over by Budapest Beacon uncovered the business links between Russia and Hungary at the MET level.
MET is a Hungarian company based in Switzerland. When it was set up in 2007 to sell natural gas, it was entirely owned by the Hungarian company MOL (shareholders: 25.2% Hungarian government and 4.9% OTP).
Since May 2018, the MET group is owned by MET ManCoo (20%) and MET Capital Partners AG, Switzerland (80%), controlled by Benjamin Lakatos, a close associate of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. But the really relevant things happen between these two periods.
According to Bloomberg, from 2009 to 2012, 20% of MET was owned by Normestone Ltd. Belize, an offshore controlled by Russian businessman Lev Tolkachev, known for his repeated attempts to take strategic targets from Eastern Europe, along with the Hungarian Imre Fazakas. The Hungarian Atlaszo Investigation Portal documented in 2013 the suspicious business links between Tolkachev, Fazakas and the Hungarian government.
In 2017, the shareholder Gyorgy Nagy, who graduated from Moscow Institute of International Relations and an ally of OTP President Sandor Csanyi (one of the most influential businessmen in Hungary and a close associate of Viktor Orban) bought the shares of Ilya Trubnikov, then to pass them alongside his actions to Benjamin Lakatos. Similarly, the other Hungarian shareholder, Garancsi Istvan, acted with his actions.
In the spring of this year, another Hungarian company with similar shareholders wanted to make a purchase in Romania. This is about OTP Bank, with leadership close to the Hungarian Prime Minister, who reached an agreement to take over the Romanian Bank. The transaction was blocked by the NBR, but did not make public the reasons. OTP’s second largest shareholder is Megdet Rahimkulov, a Russian billionaire, former Gazprom export manager and chief of Gazprom Hungary, endorsed by the United States Treasury at the end of January on an official list of Russian oligarchs considered by the authorities Washington being linked to the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin.