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SOFIA (Bulgaria), December 20 (SeeNews) - The state-owned Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) said that it intends to challenge, together with its units Bulgartransagaz and Bulgargaz, the 77.1 million euro ($88.4 million) fine imposed on the companies by the European Commission for blocking competitors' access to key gas infrastructure.
"BEH and its units do not accept the Commission's conclusions that they have abused their dominant position on Bulgaria's gas market," BEH said in a statement on Wednesday.
"In addition, the companies find the size of the fine clearly disproportionate," BEH added.
Although the deadline for paying the fine is three months following the decision, in case of an appeal BEH is allowed to make either a provisional payment, which could be reimbursed if BEH appeals the fine successfully, or to provide a guarantee.
Earlier this week, the Commission said that between 2010 and 2015, the BEH group blocked access to the sole import pipeline bringing gas into Bulgaria, the country's only gas storage facility - Chiren, and the domestic gas transmission network. Without access to this essential infrastructure, it was impossible for potential competitors to enter wholesale gas supply markets in Bulgaria. This prevented any development of competition and ensured a near monopoly for Bulgargaz, the EU institution concluded.
BEH pools together Bulgarian state-owned energy companies, including gas infrastructure operator Bulgartransagaz and gas supplier Bulgargaz.
Bulgaria imports almost all the natural gas it needs from Russia via a pipeline crossing Ukraine, Moldova and Romania.
($ = 0.8718 euro)