(Adds quotes, background, details from paragraph 4)
VILNIUS Jan 30 Shareholders of Lithuanian
utility Lietuvos Dujos voted on Thursday to seek
arbitration over a gas price dispute with sole supplier Gazprom
, as it aims to pull down some of the highest prices in
The move was initiated by the Lithuanian government, which
holds 17.7 percent of Lietuvos Dujos, and backed by its biggest
shareholder, Germany's E.ON, with 38.9 percent, which
shifted its alliance to the government.
Gazprom, which has 37.1 percent, voted against.
"An extraordinary shareholders meeting ... has decided to
initiate arbitration against natural gas supplier Gazprom in
order to lower the too high price of gas," Lietuvos Dujos said
in a statement.
The gas utility, the main retail supplier in the nation of 3
million people, said it had failed so far to negotiate more
favourable prices from Gazprom, the world's top gas producer and
the supplier of a quarter of Europe's gas needs.
Gas prices to Lithuania were among the highest in the
European Union last year, data from the European Commission
showed, and exceeded those of its Baltic neighbours.
The Commission has been investigating Gazprom since
September 2012 on suspected anti-competitive behaviour,
including overcharging customers and blocking rival suppliers.
"Gazprom's supplies to Lietuvos Dujos at much higher prices
than to Latvia, Estonia, and higher than for Germany," the
energy ministry said in a statement.
"This is harmful to our consumers, our economy, and it also
harms Lietuvos Dujos, which loses its customers and faces
shrinking gas consumption," it added.
The Lithuanian government had already filed another case
against Gazprom before the international arbitration court in
Stockholm, seeking compensation of 5 billion Lithuanian litas
($2 billion) for past pricing.
With the new arbitration initiative, the government is
trying to speed up talks with Gazprom to finally get a discount,
said Ramunas Vilpisauskas, the head of the Vilnius Institute of
International Relations and Political Science.
"It has been more than a year since the government promised
voters cheaper gas, but it hasn't delivered yet," he added.
Gazprom has said the utility agreed to pay prices based on a
formula that is linked to oil prices. It said it would not
change its pricing practices in Eastern Europe despite
The current sale agreement between Lietuvos Dujos and
Gazprom covers supplies until the end of 2015.
The Russian company said last September it could reduce
prices significantly if Lithuania signed a "comprehensive
agreement", which would also include its holding in the utility
and transit fees.
Lithuanian officials also have said Gazprom wants Vilnius to
withdraw its existing claim from the Stockholm court.
Lithuania plans to erect an liquefied natural gas (LNG)
terminal at end of 2014, and its top power utility Lietuvos
Energija expects to start importing LNG in 2015.
($1 = 2.5305 Lithuanian litas)
(Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Writing by Nerijus Adomaitis;
editing by Jane Baird)