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Alternative to Gazprom

  • 1999-03-25
TALLINN (BNS) - The Latvian company Itera, a new shareholder in Eesti Gaas, may be interested in supplying gas to the Estonian company.

Itera, which mediates Russian gas supplies to the Baltics, acquired 10 percent of Eesti Gaas shares from Baltic Republic Fund March 17, having paid 31 kroons ($ 2.2) per share.

"It would be extremely positive to us if gas arrived in Estonia by pipelines belonging to two different companies. This would improve the situation considerably," said Eesti Gaas PR Director Maarika Saarna-Siimann.

She said Itera apparently acquired the stake in Eesti Gaas with the intention of offering competition to the Estonian company's present main gas supplier, Gazprom.

Saarna-Siimann said that the relatively high price Itera paid for the shares in Eesti Gaas could be a signal of Itera's intention of becoming a strategic investor in the company.

"At present, Itera has no status of strategic investor in Estonian Gas, because it bought B type shares. At the same time, there has been discussion that all our shares could be of the same type," she said.

Saarna-Siimann said that replacement of B-type of shares for A-type shares could come under discussion at the Estonian Gas annual meeting on April 20.

The German consortium Ruhrgas currently owns 32.1 percent of Eesti Gaas shares, Russia's Gazprom and Neste hold 30.6 percent and 10 percent of shares respectively. Over 17 percent of shares belong to small shareholders.

In January, Germany's Ruhrgas increased its stake in Estonian Gas, buying from the state 11.38 percent of shares in the company for 54.1 million kroons, after Gazprom waived its pre-emptive right to buy the shares.