Applying the EU Merger Regulation, the European Commission has cleared a proposed acquisition of (i) joint control over WINZ and Wintershall Services of the Netherlands and (ii) sole control over Wingas and WIEH of Germany by the Russian energy company Gazprom, saying it had no competition concerns. The acquisitions by Gazprom are part of an asset swap between BASF SE and Gazprom aimed at expanding BASF’s production of oil and gas in Russia and Gazprom’s gas trading and storage business in Europe.
WINZ and Wintershall Services are active in oil and gas exploration and production in the North Sea, while Wingas and WIEH supply gas, mainly in Germany. The companies are wholly owned respectively jointly owned with Gazprom by Wintershall, which in turn is a wholly owned subsidiary of BASF.
The Commission assessed the potential impact of the transaction on competition in the markets for the sale of gas in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, where Gazprom sells gas to downstream wholesalers and retailers, including Wingas which is both wholesaler and retailer. The Commission found that the acquisition would not allow Gazprom to restrict customers’ access to gas supplies, given the presence of sufficient alternative upstream suppliers.
The Commission also assessed the potential effects of the acquisition on competition in the markets for the storage of gas in Germany and Austria. The Commission’s investigation showed that most of the overlaps between the parties’ activities were largely pre-existent to the transaction and/or involved only a very limited degree of integration.
This decision is without prejudice to the Commission’s on-going antitrust investigation involving Gazprom, the Commission pointed out.
EU merger control clearance means that the asset swap agreement between BASF and Gazprom, which is subject to approval by the relevant authorities, has taken an important hurdle. In November the partners said they wanted to complete the transaction by the end of 2013 , making it financially retroactive to April 1, 2013.
Source: Europa.eu; European Commission Public Case Register