November 27, 2015 / 6:02 PM / 4 years ago

Exclusive: Gazprom's Medvedev to meet EU antitrust chief next month - source

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Gazprom’s deputy chief executive is expected to meet EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager next month in a meeting that could determine the outcome of the EU’s case against the Russian gas giant, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday.

People walk out of an underground crossing, with the company logo of Gazprom company installed on its office building, in Moscow, August 10, 2015. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

The Russian state-controlled company is fighting accusations of over-charging customers and blocking rivals in eastern Europe, a case which could end in a hefty fine and changes to its business model.

At the same time, Gazprom (GAZP.MM) has sought to appease the European Commission by offering concessions to try to avert a penalty and a finding of wrongdoing. But sources said the two sides are far apart on the issue of pricing.

The talks would be Alexander Medvedev’s second meeting with Vestager and they would take place against a backdrop of high tension between Russia and the West over Syria and the country’s much-criticized plan to bypass Ukraine and extend its Nord Stream gas link to Germany.

The company, which supplies around a third of the 28-country bloc’s gas, will defend its case at a closed-door hearing on Dec. 15, three people familiar with the subject said.

Senior officials from the European Commission, their counterparts from EU agencies, rivals and complainants are also likely to attend.

Medvedev will meet Vestager a few days before the hearing, one of the sources said.

Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso and Gazprom declined to comment.

The Commission says Gazprom’s price formula, whereby the price of its gas is pegged to a number of oil products, a practice known as oil indexation, has resulted in excessive prices in Poland, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Estonia and Latvia.

A source close to the company said the EU charges are based on data from 2009 to 2013, when oil prices were high, resulting in an unfair comparison to Gazprom.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Barbara Lewis and David Evans

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