OMV head acquitted

OMV boss Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer has been found not guilty of insider trading.The former Social Democratic (SPÖ) state secretary faced three years in jail over suspicions he benefited from insider knowledge in a controversial stock purchase.Ruttenstorfer, who has headed the oil and gas company since 2002, acquired 26,500 OMV stakes worth 632,000 Euros in March 2009. Only a few days later, OMV sold its 21.1 per cent interest in Hungarian rival MOL to Russian company Surgutneftegas. The share’s values rose sharply after the business deal since it marked an end to OMV’s ill-fated attempts to take over MOL in full.Ruttenstorfer came under fire since he said in an interview with weekly magazine profil only a few days before he bought the shares that OMV will not get rid of its interest in MOL in the foreseeable future.The businessman was recently fined 20,000 Euros for market manipulation by Austrian Financial Market Supervisor FMA, but was found not guilty of insider trading. He denied any wrongdoing ever since it became clear some weeks ago that he will face a trial, and pleaded not guilty in court in Vienna yesterday (Thurs).Ruttenstorfer claimed the sale of OMV’s stake in MOL came as a surprise to him and the whole board. He also claimed that he decided to buy OMV stocks after considering an initiative which encourages the firm’s managers to acquire shares of the company.”It was a  difficult trial, but I’m glad about the acquittal,” Ruttenstorfer told Austrian media.The legal wrangle regarding the OMV CEO’s purchase of shares may however continue since state prosecutor Michael Schön decided to appeal the verdict.Norbert Zimmermann, head of OMV’s supervisory board, made headlines in November when he attacked the FMA for reporting Ruttenstorfer to prosecutors.”The accusations against Ruttenstorfer are baseless,” Zimmermann said, adding that the move not only harmed Ruttenstorfer’s reputation but the image of the whole company. OMV is one of the strongest Austrian brands and a global player in the exploration of oil and gas. Zimmermann said he would take the FMA to court were he head of OMV. He added the authority might have simply wanted to “beat a fat cat” when they accused Ruttenstorfer of insider knowledge.Ruttenstorfer, who will resign as OMV head this April, was also publicly backed by a group of leading businessmen. The 27-member panel – including UNIQA head Konstantin Klien, Telekom Austria (TA) chairman Hannes Ametsreiter and Lenzing AG chief Peter Untersperger – lauded their indicted colleague as a “person of integrity”. The group said in a public letter that Ruttenstorfer had their “full support and solidarity”.OMV is based in Vienna. It achieved a turnover of 5.67 billion Euros in the third quarter of 2010, up by a fifth year on year. The Republic of Austria holds a 31.5 per cent interest in OMV via the Federal Industry-Holding Stock Corporation (ÖIAG).Ruttenstorfer reportedly applied for the post currently held by Peter Michaelis who recently announced he will not apply for another term as ÖIAG head.ÖIAG, which must find a successor by June, refused to reveal who else has applied for the position. Ex-TA boss Boris Nemsic is the only businessman who confirmed he was interested in becoming new head of the holding.Michaelis said yesterday: “Ruttenstorfer would be an interesting person if he applied because he is highly-qualified.”