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Bulgarian Energy Holding Probed by EU for Gas Supply Limits

July 5 (Bloomberg) -- Bulgarian Energy Holding EAD and its gas units are being investigated by European Union regulators over possible restrictions to key gas infrastructures in the country.

The European Commission has concerns that “BEH and its subsidiaries may be abusing their dominant market position on the natural gas markets in Bulgaria,” the EU antitrust regulator said in a statement today.

The EU has several cases, including a separate probe into BEH over possible monopoly abuse in the electricity industry, “to foster a more competitive energy environment” in central and eastern Europe, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a speech in September. The EU is also probing OAO Gazprom, Russia’s natural-gas monopoly, over terms in its long-term gas supply contracts with EU countries.

The EU regulator said BEH, its supply subsidiary Bulgargaz and its infrastructure unit Bulgartransgaz “may be preventing potential competitors from accessing the Bulgarian gas transmission network and the gas storage facility by explicitly or tacitly refusing or delaying access to third parties.”

Bulgarian Energy Holding spokeswoman Stefka Ikonomova couldn’t be reached on her mobile and office phones to comment on the EU action.

The commission is also investigating whether the companies are blocking rivals “from accessing the main gas import pipeline by reserving capacity that is consistently not used, without releasing it on the market.”

Restricting this access makes it “impossible for any companies to compete with Bulgargaz on the Bulgarian gas supply markets,” said the Brussels-based commission.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at sbodoni@bloomberg.net

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

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