PRAGUE RWE Transgas, the Czech unit of Germany's RWE (RWEG.DE), has won a dispute with Russia's Gazprom (GAZP.MM) over long-term gas contracts, a spokesman for the country's dominant gas importer said on Wednesday.
The verdict will deal yet another blow for Gazprom's business in Europe, where it covers a quarter of natural gas needs. Its European clients have long been complaining of high prices in Gazprom's long-term gas supply contracts, the backbone of its dealing with foreign customers.
The Russian state-owned company is the main or sole gas supplier for many central and eastern European countries, including Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.
"I can only confirm that RWE Transgas is the winner against Gazprom in the take-or-pay dispute over long-term contracts," RWE Transgas spokesman Martin Chalupsky told Reuters in a telephone interview. He gave no other details.
A spokesman for Gazprom had no immediate comment.
Gazprom, the subject of investigation by the European Commission over suspicions that it hindered the free-flow of supply across the continent, has already agreed to revise its contracts with several key European clients, such as Germany's utility E.ON (EONGn.DE).
The world's top gas producer has returned more than 78 billion roubles ($2.48 billion) to its European clients in the first quarter as part of the contract dispute settlement. Gazprom has to repay a further 1 billion euros by the end of the year.
Gazprom has also been fighting off similar claims by Polish gas monopoly PGNiG PGN.WA.
($1 = 31.4232 Russian roubles)
(Reporting by Michael Kahn in Prague; additional reporting by Denis Pinchuk in Moscow; editing by Jan Lopatka and Keiron Henderson)