Bulgaria watchdog probe finds no fuel price cartel
SOFIA Aug 7 (Reuters) - Bulgaria's fuel retailers did not conspire to increase fuel prices last spring, the anti-trust regulator said on Friday after it wrapped up a year-long probe into a possible fuel price cartel.
The Commission for Protection of Competition launched the probe in June of last year after hundreds of Bulgarian truck drivers staged protests across the country to press for fuel tax rebates and government help over rising prices.
The commission, which also investigated whether Neftochim refinery, controlled by Russia's LUKOIL (LKOH.MM), abused its dominant position, said it did not find any discrepancies.
The regulator said the reason for the steep hike in the fuel prices in the first half of 2008 was in line with crude oil prices increase for the period.
LUKOIL's 140,000 barrel per day Neftochim refinery supplies about 80 percent of the EU newcomer's motor fuel needs. It is Bulgaria's sole oil refinery.
LUKOIL, Bulgarian fuel distributor Petrol and Austrian energy company OMV (OMVV.VI) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) are the biggest players in the fuel retail business in Bulgaria and control 80 percent of the market. (Reporting by Irina Ivanova, editing by Will Waterman)
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