Gazprom Seeks Deal With EU’s Antitrust Arm in Bid to Avoid Fine

OAO Gazprom, the supplier of a quarter of the European Union’s natural gas, told the bloc’s antitrust chief it will submit proposals to end an EU probe and avert possible fines.

“Gazprom expressed its willingness to explore the possibility of a commitment-based solution to the commission’s competition concerns,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said after meeting the company’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer Alexander Medvedev yesterday.

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 announced that it would present draft proposals in writing in the coming days, which the commission will assess,” Almunia said in an e-mailed statement. He also met Anatoly Yanovsky, Russia’s deputy oil minister.

“We are talking about continued exchange of information on issues that the European Commission is interested in,” said Sergei Kupriyanov, a spokesman for Moscow-based Gazprom.

Settlement Process

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 several Baltic states, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria, Almunia said in October.

Separately, Gazprom yesterday won approval from Almunia’s department at the Brussels-based European Commission for its plan to swap assets with Wintershall, an oil and gas unit of BASF SE, and gain sole control of gas supply and storage joint ventures Wingas GmbH and Wintershall Erdgas Handelshaus GmbH & Co.

The deal wouldn’t “allow Gazprom to restrict customers’ access to gas supplies, given the presence of sufficient alternative upstream suppliers,” the commission said in an e-mailed statement.

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