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Austrian oil group OMV says it plans to become the most important regional player in Central and Eastern Europe, intensifying efforts to further develop its business in the region.

“We want to cover the region from the (Germany’) Black Forest to the shores of the Black Sea,” says Werner Schinhan, OMV senior-vice president.

Schinhan claims that recent acquisitions, including Germany’s BayernOil, operations in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, the takeover of 313 BP petrol stations and the plans for completion by 2005 of the Schwechat-Bratislava oil pipeline, are among the main targets in achieving its aims.

“The Schwechat pipeline would allow us direct access to Russian crude providing substantially improved crude delivery costs,” says Schinhan.

Analysts have long expected consolidation among central European refiners, tipping Austria’s OMV, Poland’s PKN, and Hungary’s MOL as the most likely leaders.

OMV owns 10% in MOL and recently expressed interest in acquiring 33-34% in Romania’s national oil company SNP Petrom. It also owns 25% of Romania’s largest private oil company Rompetrol.