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Almunia Says EU Analyzing CEZ’s Offer to End Antitrust Probe

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Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- European Union regulators are still analyzing an offer by CEZ AS, the Czech Republic’s largest power producer, to sell power plants to resolve an antitrust probe over hindering rivals.

“No agreement” has been reached between CEZ and the European Commission, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a written answer to a question from an EU lawmaker published online on Dec. 18. “The process of negotiating the remedies is not over.”

Regulators are investigating several energy companies in central and eastern Europe to help “foster a more competitive energy environment” in the region, Almunia said in September. The European Commission said last year that CEZ may have prevented competitors from entering the market by hoarding capacity in the transmission network.

CEZ said in October it would sell its Detmarovice coal-fired plant to reach a settlement with regulators that would allay antitrust concerns. Almunia said yesterday that the EU received seven responses when it sent CEZ’s proposed commitments to rivals and customers for comments. Five of the responses didn’t question the sale of Detmarovice as a suitable remedy, he said.

Barbora Pulpanova, a spokeswoman for CEZ, said the company is still waiting for the EU’s final decision on the investigation, which it didn’t expect this year.

She declined to comment on the sale of specific plants, saying several were “in play” beyond Detmarovice.

An EU settlement allows regulators to end an investigation without imposing a fine or declaring whether a company violated competition rules. Companies can be fined as much as 10 percent of their yearly revenue if they break the terms of a settlement.

State-run CEZ and its coal-mining subsidiary Severoceske Doly AS were among companies raided by EU officials in November 2009, the companies said at the time.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net.

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

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