EXCLUSIVE EU likely to intensify fact-finding on Gazprom - source

A 3D printed natural gas pipeline is placed in front of displayed Gazprom logo and Russian flag in this illustration taken February 8, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

BRUSSELS, Feb 14 (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators are likely to intensify information gathering on Gazprom's European businesses, said a person familiar with the regulator's thinking, amid Europe's gas supply crisis.

Last month EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said she had asked gas companies including Gazprom about tight supplies after accusations the Russian giant was withholding extra production that could be released to lower soaring prices.

Gazprom denies such allegations. read more

The EU competition enforcer has yet to make a final decision on the next stage of the investigation, the person said. A fact-finding exercise could however help it build a case.

The European Commission declined to comment, saying that its investigation is ongoing.

Gazprom did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company and the Kremlin have repeatedly denied withholding gas supplies, saying that all firm and long-term obligations have been met.

The Russian gas company is supplying gas above contracts when it sees requests, Gazprom has said.

The head of the International Energy Agency Fatih Birol last month said Russia was contributing to an undersupply of natural gas to Europe, and that the situation was happening during a standoff between Moscow and the West over Ukraine.

Gazprom came into focus last year when the post-coronavirus economic recovery drove global gas demand higher, pushing up prices and power bills and leading to calls on gas companies to offer extra volumes.

The company has previously locked horns with the Commission over its pricing structure and only managed to stave off a fine of as much as 10% of its global turnover by agreeing in 2018 to reform its pricing arrangements and pave the way for rivals in eastern Europe.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Editing by Jan Harvey

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