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Delek Drilling Retreats on Gas Contract Probe: Tel Aviv Mover

May 23 (Bloomberg) -- Delek Drilling-LP fell to the lowest level in six months as gas contracts covering the Tamar natural gas field are examined by the nation’s antitrust regulator.

Delek Drilling, a partner in the Tamar field, dropped 3.4 percent to 12.37 shekels, the lowest since Nov. 27, at the close in Tel Aviv. Avner Oil Exploration LLP, another partner, fell 3.3 percent to 2.275 shekels. Isramco Negev 2 LP decreased 3.5 percent to 0.494 shekel. The benchmark TA-25 index was down 1.9 percent, also the lowest close since November.

Israel’s Antitrust Authority is studying Tamar contracts with Israel Electric Corp. and other independent electricity producers, Delek said in a regulatory statement today. Israel’s Public Utilities Authority asked this week for the contract with Israel Electric to be re-opened to adjust costs, saying it gives the partners a monopoly over gas supply for several years and could lead to excessive costs to consumers.

“All the recent regulatory interventions derive from the feeling that the prices and terms established in the contracts stem from the monopolistic status of the partnership,” Tal Shirizly, head of research at Psagot Investment House Ltd., said by phone today. “These regulatory interventions deter investors who need transparency and also make fundraising for the development of the project harder.”

Monitoring Prices

Israel has become more dependent on its own gas resources after repeated attacks on an Egyptian gas pipeline since last year disrupted supply. Egypt terminated the gas-supply agreement, Ampal-American Israel Corp. said last month.

The Tamar partners signed a 15-year agreement to supply Israel Electric with fuel in March. A unit of Paz Oil Co. also signed a 15-year agreement to buy natural gas from Tamar.

The Tamar and Leviathan gas deposits together hold an estimated 30 trillion cubic feet, more than triple the U.K.’s remaining reserves.

The Finance Ministry said yesterday an inter-ministerial committee on prices has recommended that natural gas companies’ profits be supervised and recommended monitoring prices.

Delek Group Ltd., which has stakes in Delek and Avner, retreated 4.5 percent, the most since January.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shoshanna Solomon in Tel Aviv at ssolomon22@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Maedler at cmaedler@bloomberg.net

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