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Bosnia's BH Gas seeks 20 pct wholesale gas price rise
* Wants price hike due to rising U.S. dollar, supply cost
* Retail prices would rise by at least 25 pct
SARAJEVO Aug 9 (Reuters) - Bosnia's top gas distributor BH Gas wants to increase regulated wholesale natural gas prices by 20.12 percent because of a stronger U.S. dollar and the growing cost of Russian supplies, the company said on Thursday.
The increase, if approved by the government, would drive retail prices up by at least 25 percent in a country where energy costs make up a large share of people's monthly budgets. Last year's 13.9 percent rise pushed retail prices up around 20 percent.
"The current wholesale price for distributors of 820 marka ($516) per thousand cubic metres (tcm) is significantly lower than the purchase price, due to which gap BH Gas has been directly at loss," BH Gas said in a statement.
When BH Gas last increased prices last November, the price of 820 marka equaled $588.60. Since then, Russian gas export giant Gazprom has increased prices three times, the company said.
The distributor did not say how big its loss has been from the stronger dollar and costlier Russian imports nor when the new rates would take effect.
Earlier this month, struggling to pay its own debt to Gazprom, BH Gas cut gas supplies to its largest debtors, - alumina plant Birac and distribution company Sarajevogas.
It resumed supplies to Birac after the plant agreed to pay part of its 22 million marka debt.
Sarajevogas, which owes BH Gas 38 million marka, will have to raise retail prices from September by at least 30 percent to be able to start paying its debt, BH Gas General Manager Adnan Kreso told the Dnevni Avaz newspaper on Thursday.
Bosnia has no gas reserves and natural gas accounts for around 8 percent of its energy use. It relies on Russian supplies via Ukraine, Hungary and Serbia to obtain around 400 million cubic metres of gas needed annually.
(1$=1.589 Bosnian marka) (Reporting By Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Michael Kahn and Helen Massy-Beresford)
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