* Gazprom faces possible fine of as much as $14.3 billion
* Price disputes with Ukraine led to 2009 Europe shortages
* Gazprom says has addressed European Commission's concerns
By Huw Jones
LONDON, Feb 7 Gazprom has not yet satisfied the
European Commission's concerns over pricing and the European
Union's executive body may still charge the state-controlled
Russian gas monopoly with antitrust abuses, the EU competition
chief said on Friday.
The world's top gas producer and the supplier of a quarter
of Europe's gas needs, has been under EU investigation since
September 2012 for suspected anti-competitive behaviour,
including overcharging customers and blocking rival suppliers.
Gazprom said last month that it was keen to settle the
17-month EU antitrust investigation but would resist regulatory
pressure to change its pricing practices in eastern Europe.
Disputes over gas pricing between Russia and Ukraine -
through which Gazprom pumps the bulk of its gas to Europe -
caused shortages in the region over the winter of 2009.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich's decision in November
to deepen trade ties with Russia rather than the EU, which has
led to months of violent street protests, may complicate the
Gazprom has offered the EU pricing concessions but has not
unveiled the details and may have to sweeten its offer to ward
off a possible fine of as much as $14.3 billion or 10 percent of
its 2012 turnover.
Almunia told reporters on Friday he met with Gazprom
and Russian Federation representatives in Brussels
before Christmas and noted progress on securing commitments
regarding two of three EU concerns.
Gazprom conveyed the possibility of making proposals to
settle the investigation to avoid Brussels going to the next
stage and deciding whether to fine the company, Almunia said.
The EU is concerned that Gazprom could be fragmenting the
EU's internal market, including possible anti-competitive
elements in contracts, and carrying out potential abuses of
indexation for pricing gas.
"We have received good comments on two of the three concerns
that can give way to formal commitments but on prices we have
not yet received what we need," Almunia said.
"So we continue drafting the statement of objections that
can be adopted in coming months. If in the meantime, before the
adoption ... we receive proposals that are good enough to
eliminate our concerns then we can go to the commitment
decision," he said.
A statement of objections refers to the stage in an
investigation by formally setting out the EU's concerns.
"I want to be clear that we are not stopped in the
preparation of a statement of objections because we have not
received what we want," Almunia said.
Gazprom's Deputy Chairman Alexander Medvedev said progress
had been made and that the company had addressed the
"The factual evidence we have presented does not support the
Commission's concern about alleged excessive pricing in some
eastern European markets," he said.
"We are currently working on presenting further evidence to
answer the Commission's questions in order to hopefully reach a
satisfactory compromise," a statement issued in Brussels said.