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Hungarian state holding MVM to buy Matra power plant

Hungarian state-owned energy holding MVM said Monday it was buying a majority stake in the 950-MW lignite-fired Matra power plant, based in northern Hungary's Visonta, at an undisclosed price from listed Hungarian holding company Opus.

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Matra currently has five lignite-fired units, using locally-mined lignite, totaling 884 MW, and two smaller gas-fired units adding up to 66 MW. Built in 1969-1972, it is currently Hungary's second largest power plant.

The power plant posted net losses in 2017 and 2018, partly as a result of rising CO2 prices. Previously controlled by Germany's RWE, it has undergone several ownership changes since 2017. Before the current transaction, it was owned 26.2% by MVM and 72.6% indirectly by Opus. Listed on the Budapest Stock Exchange, Opus is controlled by Lorinc Meszaros, a business ally of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban.

Speaking of the impending transaction late Friday, innovation and technology minister Laszlo Palkovics -- who also oversees energy affairs -- told reporters that the state envisions a long-term future for Matra even after the licenses of all lignite units expire toward the end of the 2020s. Plans include a 500-MW CCGT plant, solar units, processing communal waste into energy, and experimenting with electricity storage technologies, Palkovics said according to state news agency MTI. These investments are estimated to cost Forint200-300 billion ($670 million-$1.01 billion), the minister added.

The transaction, which is still subject to regulatory approval, will cement MVM's position as Hungary's largest power producer, as the company also owns the 2-GW Paks nuclear power plant, along with some wind farms and a growing fleet of photovoltaic plants.

--Balazs Szladek,

--Edited by Jonathan Loades-Carter,