Gazprom Says It Was Forced to Back Lithuania’s Utility Split

Russia’s OAO Gazprom said it voted under duress to split up Lietuvos Dujos AB at a meeting of the Lithuanian natural-gas utility’s shareholders today and reserved all legal rights to contest the decision.

Shareholders, including Gazprom with a 37 percent stake, Germany’s EON AG with 39 percent and the Lithuanian Energy Ministry with 18 percent, approved terms for the transfer of transmission activity to AB Amber Grid, a new company, Lietuvos Dujos said on the website of the Nasdaq OMX Vilnius exchange.

Gazprom only voted in favor “as the result of the coercion and pressure exerted by the State Authorities of Lithuania, including threats to apply sanctions,” the Russian gas exporter and pipeline owner said in a statement annexed to the announcement.

Lithuania is splitting ownership of gas sales and transmission activities to meet European Union rules intended to boost competition. Gazprom will be forced to sell its stake in the new company, losing influence over the pipelines that deliver gas to Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave.

The coercion used for the decision “actually calls for the review of the terms and conditions under which Lietuvos Dujos was privatized” in 2004, Gazprom said.

The spinoff is due to take effect on July 31.

Shareholders also decided to retain the current board members of Lietuvos Dujos, who met separately today and agreed to keep Viktoras Valentukevicius as general manager, the utility said.

Lietuvos Dujos shares rose 1 percent to 0.601 euro today in Vilnius before the announcement, valuing the company at 282 million euros ($374 million).

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