Gazprom could face anti-trust charges: EU regulator Almunia
Russian gas company Gazprom faces being charged with antitrust practices, the head of the European Union's (EU) antitrust regulator said on Thursday.
Speaking at a conference in Lithuania, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said the regulator was preparing a charge sheet against the company. If found to have broken antitrust rules, Gazprom could be fined up to $15 billion.
"It would be premature to anticipate when the next steps would be taken in this investigation, but we have now moved to the phase of preparing a statement of objections," Reuters reported Almunia telling a conference in Vilnius organised by the Lithuanian Competition Authority.
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Gazprom is one of the world's largest players in the natural gas industry, with Europe making up a large part of its revenue with "more than 20 countries of Central and Western Europe account for more than 65 percent of the total gas exports by Gazprom," the company states.
Last year the European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-country EU, started an investigation into allegations that it could have abused its dominant market position by impeding the free flow of gas to the EU and unfairly charging its customers by linking the price of its gas to oil.
Almunia said the investigation covered Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria. If found guilty, the commission could fine it and demand up to 10 percent of its annual revenues -- last year, the company generated $148 billion in revenues.
Gazprom has denied all the allegations and the chief executive of Gazprom Export, Alexander Medvedev, told CNBC on Wednesday the accusations were "generated by political motivations, not economic performance."
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Reuters contributed reporting to this story.