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Nord Pool, Epex Raided as Part of EU Power-Exchanges Probe

Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Nord Pool Spot AS and Epex Spot SE, Europe’s two biggest electricity exchanges for near-term delivery, said they were raided by European antitrust regulators probing possible collusion.

The European Commission said companies managing trading platforms for electricity contracts may have violated laws banning “cartels and restrictive business practices.” Power exchanges provide services that “facilitate electricity trading at wholesale level,” it said in an e-mailed statement.

Today’s raid follows a three-year crackdown by the European Union against anti-competitive behavior in the energy industry. Nord Pool and Epex Spot said in September they planned to start a power-trading platform as the EU seeks a single market for the bloc. The venture would have more than 90 percent of the spot power trading at exchanges in northwest Europe and probably more than 50 percent in Europe as a whole, Jean Francois Conil-Lacoste, chief executive officer of Epex Spot, said at the time.

The reason for the proposed joint venture with Nord Pool Spot was “to harmonize our markets, harmonize our systems in order to be in line with what the European Commission wanted by 2014,” Wolfram Vogel, spokesman for Epex Spot, said today by phone from the E-world conference in Essen, Germany.

The venture would have helped build the single EU market for power that regulators wanted, he said. Epex Spot is itself a joint venture of European Energy Exchange AG in Leipzig, Germany, and PowerNext SA of Paris. EEX is the only German power exchange while PowerNext is the only power bourse in France.

Utility Regulation

The region in 2009 agreed to make dominant electricity and natural-gas companies improve access to transmission networks for competitors, while the commission has probed companies including Electricite de France SA, EON AG, RWE AG and Eni SpA for possible illegal business practices.

The commission said that officials from the European Free Trade Association, which groups Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, were also involved in the raids. EFTA said in a statement that it took part following a request from the Brussels-based commission.

Lysaker, Norway-based Nord Pool Spot said it “understands” that the raids concerned a planned joint venture with Epex Spot.

Power-Trading Businesses

Epex Spot, based in Paris, said on its website it’s “working together” with EU officials “to deliver all information needed.” Epex Spot was created in 2009.

“Unannounced inspections are a preliminary step into suspected anticompetitive practices,” the commission said.

The commission is in charge of policing cross-border competition issues in the 27-nation EU. Firms guilty of antitrust violations can be fined as much as 10 percent of their annual sales. There is no legal deadline for the commission to complete its investigation.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jim Brunsden in Brussels at jbrunsden@bloomberg.net; Jonathan Stearns in Brussels at jstearns2@bloomberg.net; Mathew Carr in London at m.carr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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