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Almunia Says ‘Plan A’ Is to Send Gazprom EU Antitrust Complaint

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Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- OAO Gazprom, the supplier of a quarter of the European Union’s natural gas, faces an EU antitrust complaint despite making proposals last month to settle a probe and avert possible fines.

“Plan A is to continue working on the statement of objections and, when it is ready, to adopt it,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told reporters today in Brussels in reference to the draft complaint.

Russia’s state-owned natural gas export monopoly is suspected of abusing its dominant market power to impose unfair prices in central and eastern Europe by linking what it charges for long-term natural gas contracts to oil prices and of preventing gas from being traded between countries, the EU said when it started the probe in September 2012.

Gazprom’s offer last month opened “the possibility” of settling the case, Almunia said. Discussions at technical level have taken place between European Commission officials and Gazprom representatives, he said.

EU antitrust rules allow regulators to lift the threat of fines in certain cases, excluding cartels, when companies make commitments to end anti-competitive behavior.

The EU’s probe, which saw raids on Gazprom offices and the premises of customers in 2011, focuses on the Baltic states, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria, Almunia said in October.

Sergei Kupriyanov, a spokesman for Moscow-based Gazprom declined to specify the company’s December proposals and also to comment on Almunia’s statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gaspard Sebag in Brussels at gsebag@bloomberg.net

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

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