EBRD delays $300 mln loan to Ukraine's Naftogaz

MOSCOW, Nov 17 (Reuters) - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said on Tuesday it is postponing a decision on forwarding a portion of a loan to Urkaine’s Naftogaz, as the company has delayed key reforms.

The delayed $300 million amount is part of a larger loan package intended to fund the Ukrainian state energy firm’s import and storage of natural gas from Russia.

It was contingent on a series of reforms in the sector and the company, including regular audits, the reform of its tariff policy and proper legislation on state purchases.

“Unfortunately it became evident that very little progress has been achieved and that’s the reason the project has not been submitted for the board’s consideration at this time,” said Anton Usov, a spokesman for the EBRD’s Kiev office.

Initially, a ruling on the loan was scheduled to take place during the EBRD’s Tuesday board meeting.

Usov also said talks were continuing with the company and Ukrainian officials on a second, $450 million portion of the loan scheduled to be distributed next year.

Naftogaz, the sole buyer of Russian gas for domestic use, has been entangled in a series of payment disputes with Russia's Gazprom GAZP.MM.

Rows between Kiev and Moscow over gas bills and prices led to winter supply cuts in January that affected hundreds of thousands of Europeans.

The EU receives about 20 percent of its gas from Russia via pipelines that cross Ukraine.

In early November, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called on the European Union to lend money to Ukraine to help Kiev pay for gas supplies [ID:nL2263572].

The EBRD’s Usov said the bank’s decision not to rule on the loan, was of a “technical manner.”

“We’ll look for more progress and if we see it, we’ll be ready to consider project initiation,” Usov said. (Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by David Holmes)