20:10 GMT +3 hours27 November 2014
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Gazprom Sheds $2 bln Overnight on EU Probe

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Gazprom shares fell 2 percent with its capitalization down $2 billion Wednesday on news of an EU probe over concerns that the Russian natural gas giant might be hindering competition in Central and Eastern European gas markets, in breach of EU antitrust rules.

Gazprom shares fell 2 percent with its capitalization down $2 billion Wednesday on news of an EU probe over concerns that the Russian natural gas giant might be hindering competition in Central and Eastern European gas markets, in breach of EU antitrust rules.

The European Commission said on Tuesday it has concerns that Gazprom “may be abusing its dominant market position in upstream gas supply markets in Central and Eastern European Member States, in breach of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.”

The report undercut Gazprom’s Wednesday quotes, said Andrei Vernikov, deputy director for investment analysis at Zurich Capital Management.

“The investigation impedes access to the end consumer in Europe - Gazprom’s goal,” he said, adding that over the next several days share dynamics will be “below market.”

Some analysts believe Gazprom will be able to reach an out-of-court settlement before multibillion fines and claims are formally filed against it, making some concessions on sales and prices.

“This is the most likely scenario,” Troika Dialog’s Oleg Maksimov said.

“The bad news is that the investigation could drag on for years. However, there is no cause for panic.”

The European Commission is investigating three suspected anti-competitive practices in Central and Eastern Europe.

“First, Gazprom may have divided gas markets by hindering the free flow of gas across Member States. Second, Gazprom may have prevented the diversification of supply of gas. Finally, Gazprom may have imposed unfair prices on its customers by linking the price of gas to oil prices,” the EC said.

Such behavior may constitute a restriction of competition and lead to higher prices and deterioration of security of supply, ultimately harming EU consumers, it said.

The EU said it will treat the Gazprom case as a matter of priority.