* Investigate requirements for access to electricity market
* Ban on brokered deals forced traders to other markets
(Adds Romanian comment)
BRUSSELS/BUCHAREST Dec 11 European Union
antitrust regulators are investigating whether Romanian power
exchange operator OPCOM and parent group Transelectrica
have been blocking foreign traders from the local
wholesale electricity market.
By requiring traders in the spot market to hold a Romanian
value-added tax registration and to be set up in Romania, OPCOM
may be discriminating against foreign firms, the European
Commission - the EU's executive arm - said on Tuesday.
"This business practice may increase the cost for foreign
traders to do business on the power exchange and deter foreign
traders from entering the Romanian electricity wholesale market,
thereby reducing market liquidity and efficiency," it said.
Romania's government, which won a parliamentary election on
Sunday, had said it wanted to promote transparency in wholesale
trading after cancelling a number of contracts that state-owned
producer Hidroelectrica awarded at below-market prices in recent
Regulator ANRE's decision to enforce the law in September,
which mandated that producers sell output through the OPCOM
exchange, has ended all bilateral and brokered power contracts
in the EU nation of 19 million people.
The ban on brokered deals has forced traders to look to
other markets as they wait for regulators and lawmakers to
figure a way to address the problems in the wholesale market
stemming from the new law.
OPCOM said it was aware of the investigation and was seeking
solutions "that would maintain the efficiency of trading
mechanisms". Transelectrica, a state-owned power grid operator,
would not comment.
The EU competition authority can fine companies up to 10
percent of global revenue for breaching antitrust rules or force
them to change their business practices.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee and Ioana Patran; Editing by Dan