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Gazprom seeks gas price formula not to be heard in Lithuanian courts

Dujos
Laurio Viksnės/BFL nuotr. / Dujos
Šaltinis: BNS
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Russia's gas company Gazprom is asking a Lithuanian court to recognize the Stockholm arbitration tribunal's decision that, among other things, ruled that disputes over natural gas price formula that is set in Lietuvos Dujos' (Lithuanian Gas) shareholder agreement can only be heard by arbitrators.

Kristina Petrošienė, spokeswoman for the Lithuanian Court of Appeals, confirmed to BNS that the court is hearing Gazprom's request.

Lawyers told BNS that the arbitration tribunal's decision is likely to be recognized in Lithuania, but they did not predict what impact it might have on an ongoing probe into Lietuvos Dujos' activities or future litigation on gas prices.

It is not ruled out that following the Court of Appeals decision, Gazprom may ask the Vilnius Regional Court, which in September decided to open a probe into Lietuvos Dujos' activities, to take the arbitration tribunal's interpretation into consideration.

The Lithuanian government and Gazprom signed Lietuvos Dujos' shareholders agreement, setting the gas price formula, in 2004.

Gazprom said immediately after the arbitration tribunal's ruling in July that it had satisfied most of its claims and protected the rights of the company as a shareholder of Lietuvos Dujos. The Russians also emphasized the arbitration tribunal's position that disputes over the terms for natural gas supply and transit, as well as over other commercial relations between Gazprom and Lietuvos Dujos, had to be heard by arbitrators, rather than by Lithuanian courts.

However, Gazprom failed to have the Lithuanian government obliged to stop the probe into Lietuvos Dujos' activities, as the Stockholm arbitration tribunal decided that the Lithuanian state had the right to launch such an investigation and had not violated the shareholders' agreement.

In early October, Lithuania filed a suit of about 5 billion litas (EUR 1.45b) against Gazprom, but it is thought that the dispute might end in a voluntary agreement if the Russian supplier agreed to negotiate over lower gas prices. Russia has made it clear to Lithuania that it will not change its pricing policy until 2015.

In its suit filed against Gazprom at the Stockholm arbitration tribunal, Lithuania is demanding 5 billion litas in compensation for having allegedly overpaid for Russian natural gas in 2004 to 2012 due to unfair pricing. It is said that the gas price formula has been revised five times since 2005, eventually tying it to soaring oil product prices in the world's markets. Lithuania wants the gas price to be linked to biofuel prices.

The European Commission is currently carrying out an investigation into Gazprom's operations in Central and Eastern European. Among other things, it suspects that the supplier could have imposed unfair prices on its customers by linking the cost of gas to oil prices.

Lithuania, which currently pays the highest price for Gazprom's natural gas in the EU, thinks that the Russian supplier applies discriminatory prices to the country, which is the first Baltic state that is implementing the EU's third energy package and aims to unbundle the assets of Lietuvos Dujos by the end of 2014.

BNS
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