Russian Oil and Gas: The Squeeze Is On—Sort of
European Union regulators have formally charged Gazprom with abusing its dominant market position in Europe—a charge a long time (2.5 years) in the making and a move that will likely increase tensions with Russia. According to the European Commission, Gazprom has significantly hindered competition in Central and Eastern European gas markets, and has infringed on European single-market rules by forbidding the resale of its gas between EU countries, allowing it to charge unfair prices. Furthermore, Gazprom may also have abused its dominant market position by making the supply of natural gas dependent on obtaining unrelated commitments from wholesalers concerning gas transport infrastructure. Gazprom risks fines of up to 10% of the company’s overall sales. Overall, however, we note that the charges the European Commission laid against Gazprom aren’t nearly as hard-hitting as many expected them to be (though we personally weren’t really expecting much). In fact, Gazprom shares at the Moscow stock exchange took a tiny dip and then recovered almost immediately. So much for that.
So what next? Gazprom now has 12 weeks to reply and can also request an oral hearing to present its arguments.
At the same time, the United Kingdom will force Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman to sell a dozen North Sea gasfields owned by his $10b-billion energy fund, LetterOne (L1) Energy. He…