BERLIN, September 28 (Itar-Tass) — Representatives of the European Commission on Tuesday conducted unannounced searches in the offices of Gazprom in Central and Eastern Europe and in the offices of a number of European energy companies, the German media reported.
The checks affected companies “involved in the supply, transfer and storage of natural gas.” They, in particular, were conducted in the Berlin and the Czech subsidiaries of Russia’s natural gas monopoly - Gazprom Germania and Vemex. The checks were made on “suspicion of anti-competitive activities such as market sharing, creating barriers to access to the network and the diversification of suppliers, as well as overpricing.”
However, the fact of the checks in itself does not testify to the companies’ violations.
The German companies RWE and E. ON Ruhrgas also confirmed that their offices were searched. Thus, according to a RWE representatives quoted by the German media, the purpose of this campaign is to double-check the presence of anti-competitive provisions in the company’s contracts with Gazprom. “RWE fully supports the checks and cooperates with the European Commission,” the company representative said.
“Gazprom has nothing to hide, we have calmly accepted these checks,” the Stern.de. website quoted an official of Gazprom Germania. “With the European Commission we are working openly and constructively,” he added.
If the suspicions of the European commissioners are confirmed and an official investigation is launched into a cartel agreement its participants face fines of up to 10 percent of their annual turnover.
Berlin-based GAZPROM Germania GmbH is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the world’s largest natural gas producer, GAZPROM Open Joint Stock Company (OJSC). Our company sells Russian and Central Asian natural gas in Germany and in Eastern and Western Europe, according to the company website. Since its establishment in 1990, GAZPROM Germania GmbH has evolved into an internationally operating company Group that invests in the supply security of the European energy markets in cooperation with its strategic partners. Today, the Group comprises almost 30 companies operating in more than 20 countries in Europe and Central Asia.
The GAZPROM Germania Group is active in almost all segments along the value chain of the natural gas industry. Its core business areas include natural gas production, trading, and storage. With these business activities, we are making an ever-increasing contribution to securing a reliable, environmentally friendly, and sustainable energy supply. It is also an active sponsor of art and culture, youth and education, healthcare and social security, and sports. Through its numerous activities in these areas, it aims to present a diverse picture of present-day Russia, its people, and its culture with a view to promoting understanding between Germany and Russia.
VEMEX s.r.o. was founded in April of 2001 and right from the beginning its focus has been on the energy sector. In 2003 the company obtained a license for trading natural gas and electricity. Two years later, new shareholders entered the company – important firms active mainly in the gas industry in the Federal Republic of Germany and Austria as well as a Swiss investment firm, it is said on the corporate website. In spring 2006 the company have concluded a contract with OOO Gazprom export Moscow on natural gas supplies for the Czech gas market. The acquisition activities started immediately afterwards and already in the same year the first supplies started. Just a year later (in 2007) a long-term contract was signed with Gazprom export Moscow on natural gas supplies for the years 2008-1012 with an option on further prolongation.
The entry of VEMEX into the Czech gas market can be regarded as very successful, whereby the preconditions for further growth of the company’s market share are already set. Very soon the company will develop its activity into further market segments as it seeks to supply gas also to small customers and to expand its activities within new industrial and energy projects. Also, the company is planning to enter the Slovak market. The first step of its preparations was the incorporation of a subsidiary, VEMEX Energo s.r.o., which is headquartered in Bratislava.