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CORPORATE BRIEFS

Ruhrgas wants to buy SPP stake in Czech gas companies

A detailed inspection of the performance of state-run gas distributor Slovenský Plynárenský Priemysel (SPP), launched shortly after the induction of the new cabinet, concluded on December 23. Economy Minister Ludovít Černák said that two cases are already in the courts - the transfer of SPP's 10% stake in Czech gas distributors Východočeská Plynárenská Spoločnosť (VCP) and Severomoravská Plynárenská Spoločnosť (SMP).

The SPP owned (directly or through its affiliation SPP Bohemia) 34% of VCP and SMP. On October 15, 10% of the above shares, owned directly by SPP, were transferred from the company's account to CS Brokers, a Czech borkerage firm. The broker was authorized to sell the shares at par value by the end of the year. Otherwise, the block of shares was to be returned to the SPP account.

The German company Ruhrgas, which bought a 2.5% stake in Russian gas giant Gazprom over the weekend of December 20-21, entered talks with a Czech broker on the purchase of the above shares on December 17. But the Slovak Economy Ministry asked Ruhrgas through diplomatic channels not to buy the shares via a broker, arguing that the transaction had been untransparent. The ministry recommended that Ruhrgas, if it were seriously interested in the purchase of SPP's stake in Czech gas companies, do it directly through negotiations with the SPP.

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