ZAGREB, June 23, 2018 – Jutarnji List daily on Saturday published a formal letter which US company Castleton Commodities International (CCI) sent Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in March, expressing its interest in being a new strategic partner to Croatia’s oil company INA.
The newspaper says that in the March 6 letter, one of CCI’s presidents, Fabrizio Zichichi, says CCI is willing to finance the buy-back of Hungarian energy group MOL’s shareholding in INA.
The article says CCI is focused on trading in hydrocarbons as well as petrochemical products, metals and other similar goods, and that among its shareholders are some very prominent US financiers such as billionaires Glenn Dubin and Paul Tudor Jones II.
Jutarnji List recalls that about ten months before, the head of Russian oil company Rosneft Igor Sechin, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest associates, publicly expressed interest in taking over MOL’s stake in INA.
The article says another offer came in March, from the US, and that it said: “CCI would act as a strategic investor and partner to INA by supporting the Croatian governmental ministries in a number of key areas: through provision of funding and co-investment; by acting on commercial basis in contractual areas such as crude processing, refined products trading and supply and offtakes; providing risk management; leading execution of upstream and downstream assets investments; and in talent development and recruitment.”
According to Jutarnji List, the letter does not state the INA share CCI would take over but that Zichichi very expressly offered the Croatian government assistance in financing a possible buy-back of MOL’s INA stake, noting in his letter that CCI controls 3.6 billion dollars of insured credit lines and the possibility of expanding them given that it does business and has commercial relations with over 25 international banks.
The article recalls that, after Rosneft expressed its interest in INA, former US ambassador to Croatia Julieta Valls Noyes said last November that one Western company was interested in INA, and that the new ambassador Robert Kohorst said a Russian investor in INA was not in Croatia’s interest.
The newspaper says that the Croatian government does not know what kind of strategic partner INA needs and whether it will even look for it. The daily recalls that last December the government invited applications for consultants for the buy-back of MOL’s stake in INA and launched a search for a new strategic partner. According to Jutarnji List, in early April it was made public that a eight million euro offer by Morgan Stanley, Intesa Sanpaolo Group and Privredna Banka Zagreb was chosen for the job but that it remains unknown how far the whole process has gone.