Πέμπτη, 29 Σεπτεμβρίου 2011

Six companies named in European Commission gas antitrust raids

German utilities E.ON and RWE, Austrian OMV, Polish PGNiG, Slovakian SPP and Russia's Gazprom were named Wednesday as being among the natural-gas companies raided by the European Commission looking for possible antitrust violations in Central and Eastern Europe.

E.ON, RWE, OMV and SPP confirmed to Platts Wednesday that they were involved in the EC's raids carried out Tuesday.

An RWE spokesman said the raid related to its contracts with Gazprom.

Gazprom Export confirmed to Platts Wednesday that the EC had begun antitrust investigations in its offices in European countries.
"The companies take every measure to fulfill their contractual obligations with their clients and are helping the representatives of the EC within the limits of the regulation and the decision," Gazprom Export said.

An analyst from KBC Securities said in a note that PGNiG was also among the companies raided by the EC. PGNiG was not immediately available for comment.

The EC did not give precise details of the reasons for the raids, but analysts at Citigroup said they believed the destination clauses in some gas contracts may have been breached. These clause stop importers from reselling gas overseas.

"We believe that the focus of the investigations is destination clauses that exist within upstream contracts," Citigroup said in a note.

Hungarian gas company MOL told Platts it was not involved in the investigations.

"MOL Group was not visited. There wasn't any inspection at MOL Group," said Domokos Szollar, spokesman for MOL Group.

The EC said it was investigating possible anti-competitive practices at 10 natural gas companies in Central and Eastern Europe.

"The commission has concerns that the companies concerned may have engaged in anti-competitive practices in breach of EU antitrust rules or that they are in possession of information relating to such practices," it said Tuesday.

The EC said its investigation focused on upstream supply level, where competition may be restricted unilaterally or through agreements.

The gas companies being investigated were suspected of exclusionary behavior, such as "market partitioning, obstacles to network access, barriers to supply diversification, as well as possible exploitative behavior, such as excessive pricing," it added.

Companies that break EU antitrust rules can be fined up to 10% of annual sales.

London (Platts)--28Sep2011/751 am EDT/1151 GMT


DG Competition press release.