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EPH Pledges to Keep Slovak Gas Prices Steady to Unlock SPP Sale

Oct. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Slovak Premier Robert Fico said Energeticky a Prumyslovy Holding AS pledged to keep household prices steady to unlock its purchase of a 49 percent stake in the country’s largest gas company.

EPH, a Czech private-equity group, is in talks with E.ON Ruhrgas AG and GDF Suez on purchasing their stake in Slovensky Plynarensky Priemysel AS. The Slovak government, which holds the majority in the utility, on Oct. 17 refused to approve the transaction after Slovensky had filed a request for a 25 percent increase in gas prices for households from January.

The government will discuss the transaction again on Nov. 24 following further negotiations with the potential buyer, Fico told journalists today in Gabcikovo, Slovakia. EPH also pledged to withdraw from all disputes SPP is currently having with the state over price caps, he said.

Fico has criticized the current two foreign investors, who have a majority on the utility’s board, for seeking increases in household prices that ignore living standards in the euro-area’s second-poorest country.

Slovensky said its 2011 after-tax profit of 564 million euros ($730 million) was affected by a 50 million-euro loss on sales to domestic clients because of excessive price regulation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Radoslav Tomek in Bratislava at rtomek@bloomberg.net

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

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