Gazprom eyes stake in Belgian market

17th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

17 March 2006, BRUSSELS — The Russian gas company Gazprom is interested in taking a stake in the Belgian energy market, Energy Minister Marc Verwilghen said on Friday during a meeting with European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

17 March 2006

BRUSSELS — The Russian gas company Gazprom is interested in taking a stake in the Belgian energy market, Energy Minister Marc Verwilghen said on Friday during a meeting with European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

Verwilghen said Gazprom is considering joint ventures with gas supply company Distrigas and network administrator Fluxys. It is also keen to buy a stake in Fluxys.

"It wants to expand its presence. It is investigating possibilities with Fluxys, from joint ventures to taking a stake," the Liberal VLD minister said.

Co-operating with Fluxys will also help Gazprom strengthen its presence in the West European energy market.

Verwilghen said Gazprom is interested in the storage and supply of LNG at the gas hub at Zeebrugge. The Zeebrugge port plays an important role in the supply of gas to Western Europe.

Earlier on Friday, Verwilghen said the Belgian government preferred to have three large companies operating in the domestic energy market. He said there are eight or nine companies already interested in the Belgian market.

Federal Finance Minister Didier Reynders wants two or three gas companies operating in Belgium. US magazine 'Forbes' claims Reynders is demanding that Gaz de France (GdF) sells its stake in Belgian firm SPE if its merger with French firm Suez goes ahead.

Reynders said it is important that there is room for other competing firms in the Belgian market if the mega merger between Suez and GdF goes ahead.

Verwilghen and Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt met with EC commissioner Kroes on Friday to discuss the planned merger of GdF and Suez, which owns Belgian firm Electrabel and is the biggest shareholder of Distrigas.

If the merger proceeds, 99 percent of Belgian's energy market will come under the one roof, prompting government concerns over the future of competition.

However, the federal government believes the merger is a good opportunity to throw the  Belgian energy market wide open and will not request the EC protect the domestic market.

Verhofstadt said the Belgian government will meet Suez and GdF in the near future to discuss ways of boosting competition in Belgium.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news

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