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CEZ Settles Antitrust Probe With Pledge to Sell Power Assets

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April 10 (Bloomberg) -- CEZ AS, the Czech Republic’s largest power producer, settled a European Union antitrust probe after offering to sell power assets to allay concerns that it shut out potential rivals from the country’s power market.

“The divestiture of significant generation capacity will allow a new player to enter the Czech electricity market and to compete with the incumbent CEZ,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said today in an e-mailed statement from Brussels. “This will benefit all electricity customers.”

Regulators are investigating several energy companies in central and eastern Europe to help boost competition, Almunia said last year. The Brussels-based European Commission opened a probe into CEZ because of concerns it may have prevented competitors from entering the market by hoarding capacity in the transmission network.

The deal announced today means that CEZ will divest about 800 megawatts to 1,000 megawatts of generation capacity, the commission said. Under the settlement, CEZ may choose between three divestment scenarios. These are the sale of its Pocerady or Chvaletice plants, or Melnik III together with Tisova, the commission said.

“We took all the necessary steps to fulfil the commission’s demands, so we are happy that the settlement was finally confirmed,” said Barbora Pulpanova, a spokeswoman for CEZ.

CEZ “will carry out the sale under the supervision of a monitoring trustee, who will verify in particular that the transaction would not raise new competition concerns,” the EU authority said. “The buyer will have to be approved by the commission.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jim Brunsden in Brussels at jbrunsden@bloomberg.net

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

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