MOSCOW, MARCH 24. (RIA NOVOSTI). -- The Russian gas giant Gazprom has wound up the deal to buy 34 percent of the Lithuanian company Lietuvos Duios, says the Gazprom press release, reaching RIA Novosti on Wednesday.

The Lietuvos Duios shareholders' agreement was inked by Povilas Milasiauskas, general director of the Lithuanian State Property Fund, Alexander Ryazanov, deputy chairman of the board of Gazprom, and Aike Benke, vice-president of Guhrgas AG.

"Gazprom's participation in the capital of Lietuvos Duios and other Baltic gas companies will not only boost their efficiency but be an additional factor for stability in the further development of the gas market of the entire region", Ryazanov said at the signing ceremony of the agreement. "This event illustrates a civilised and mutually advantageous cooperation in the gas business also to other states".

In keeping with the terms of privatisation, the long-term Gazprom-Lietuvos Duios contract on the supply of gas to Lithuania has been prolonged until 2015. Gas supplies will proceed according to the coordinated price linked to the prices on alternative fuels.

The main directions of Lietuvos Duios work are the purchase, transportation and distribution of gas in Lithuania. The company is making use of 1,630 kilometers of high-pressure gas pipelines, one compressor and 58 gas-distribution stations.

Lietuvos Duios privatisation was performed in two stages. First, 34 percent of it was bought by a strategic foreign investor, the German company Ruhrgas AG. Later, another 34 percent of the Lithuanian company was put up for tender and a large supplier of natural gas to Lithuania, Gazprom, bought it.

Now the structure of the AO Lietuvos Duios joint stock is as follows: 34 percent belongs to Gazprom; 35.7 percent to Ruhrgas AG; 24.36 percent to the Lithuanian government; and the rest to minority investors.

The Baltic region is crucial in the investment strategy of Gazprom, which is the supplier of gas and a shareholder of Eesti Gaas in Estonia and Latvijas Gase in Latvia.

In 2003 Gazprom supplied to Lithuania 3.012 billion cubic meters of gas and in 2004 plans to supply another 3.160 billion cubic meters.

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