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Slovak Government Agrees to Buy 49% Stake in SPP Gas Provider

Sept. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s cabinet agreed to buy back a minority stake in gas company Slovensky Plynarensky Priemysel, completing a multi year push to regain full control over consumer gas prices.

The government will buy the 49% percent in SPP it doesn’t already own from Czech utility Energeticky a Prumyslovy Holding AS, it decided during in a meeting today. EPH purchased the stake from E.ON SE and GDF Suez SA in January after agreeing to tighter price regulation that Fico’s government demanded last November as part of the sale.

“We are gaining total control over gas prices,” Fico said at a press conference in Bratislava. “We don’t have to worry about a sudden increase in gas prices for households at the beginning of next year.”

Fico had criticized SPP’s two previous investors, E.ON SE and GDF Suez, as far back as 2008 for seeking increases in household gas prices that ignored living standards in the euro-area’s second-poorest country. His government expects economic growth this year to slow to 0.5 percent, from 2 percent last year.

EPH, which also owns assets in the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland, will continue to hold a 49 percent stake SPP unit SPP-Distribucia AS, which controls distribution and Eustream AS, the most lucrative part of SPP which handles transit of Russian gas from Ukraine, Economy Ministry spokesman Stanislav Jurikovic said in a telephone interview from Bratislava.

EPH “respects Slovakia’s decision” and will continue to cooperate with the government,’’ EPH Chairman Daniel Kretinsky said in an e-mailed statement.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ladka Bauerova in Prague at lbauerova@bloomberg.net; Radoslav Tomek in Krynica, Poland at rtomek@bloomberg.net

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

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