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CEZ Needs to Invest 151 Million Lev in Bulgarian Grid

Feb. 29 (Bloomberg) -- CEZ AS, the Czech Republic’s largest power utility that controls Bulgaria’s biggest electricity distributors, needs to invest 151 million lev ($104 million) to support and expand the Balkan country’s grid.

CEZ will seek approval to raise power prices in Bulgaria 6.44 percent to finance the investment needed for the year starting from July 2012 to replace 440 kilometers (274 miles) of power cables with expired service life, install new transformers and extend the grid to new clients, the Prague-based company said in an e-mailed statement today.

Bulgaria’s energy regulator capped CEZ’s 2011-2012 investment program at 111 million lev, after 71 million lev in each of the previous three years it said. CEZ controls the power companies serving the capital Sofia and the northern city of Pleven, which together account for 41 percent of the country’s electricity consumers or more than 2 million clients.

“Delaying renovation of the grid will exacerbate its problems and will further postpone in time achieving European standards of power-supply quality and security,” CEZ Bulgaria AD Regional Manager Peter Dokladl said in the statement.

The investment volume of 53 lev per client approved by the energy regulator for CEZ is less than that of its competitors, even though it services the biggest part of the country including the capital and major mountain resorts, the company said.

The Austrian utility EVN AG, which services 1.5 million customers in southern Bulgaria gets a 75 lev per client cap and Germany’s E.ON AG which sells electricity to 1.2 million clients in northeastern Bulgaria has the limit of 65 lev per client, according to the statement.

Damages to the power grid caused by severe snowstorms in the first two months of the year exceeded 2 million lev, CEZ said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Konstantinova in Sofia at ekonstantino@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

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