Poland closes in on Yamal pipeline company

By bne IntelliNews March 23, 2015

bne IntelliNews -

 

Warsaw is on the verge of victory in the long battle for control of the Polish stretch of the Yamal pipeline, the only mainline overland route carrying Russian gas to Europe that bypasses Ukraine.

State-controlled gas company PGNiG and subsidiary Gas Assets Management (GAM) have asked UOKiK to give the green light to its takeover of Gas Trading, the anti-trust office announced on March 20. Gas Trading, a subsidiary of Polish industrial investment group Bartimpex, holds an all-important 4% stake in EuRoPolGaz, the operator of the Polish section of the pipeline. 

PGNiG and Russia's Gazprom each own 48% in EuRoPolGaz. That leaves the stake held by Gas Trading with the deciding vote. PGNiG and GAM’s request to UOKiK - made on March 16 - appears to confirm that Gas Trading's EGM on March 9 agreed to lower the majority threshold for major decisions at the company, as bne Intellinews reported the company would seek to do.

On the agenda was a move to lower the threshold from 75% to 66.6%, with a 60% turnout requirement. That would allow PGNiG - the largest stakeholder - to take control, provided that it reaches agreement with Bartimpex. 

The state-controlled PGNiG’s plan now appears to hinge only on the decision of the competition watchdog. The anti-trust office did not say how long it would take to make the ruling.

Polish media reported in February that, once in control of Gas Trading, PGNiG may seek to push for lower gas prices from Gazprom in exchange for a 50:50 division of voting power in EuRoPolGaz.

During gas supply negotiations in 2010, the Polish and Russian governments agreed to oust Gas Trading from EuRoPolGaz, with its stake to be evenly divided between PGNiG and Gazprom. However, the deal has never materialised.

Yamal is the only land pipeline connecting Russia with Europe that does not run through Ukraine, going via Belarus instead. The pipeline has a capacity of 33bn cubic metres per year. Initial plans to construct two parallel legs were abandoned when Russia chose to build Nord Stream.

A preliminary agreement signed by PGNiG with Gazprom in April 2013 to add the second line caused a scandal in Poland. After Moscow announced the deal, the CEO of the Polish company and the treasury minister in Warsaw were sacked.

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