November 4, 2009 / 5:34 PM / in 10 years

Eni antitrust hearing set for Nov 27 - EU

BRUSSELS, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Italian oil and gas group Eni (ENI.MI) will defend itself at an oral hearing on Nov. 27 into EU antitrust charges that the company restricted rivals’ access to its gas pipelines, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

The Commission, which regulates competition in the 27-country European Union, has been pushing for years to have European utilities divest power grids and allow rivals easier access in order to boost competition.

The Commission laid out its concerns in a “statement of objections” to Eni in March following an investigation into the company’s TAG, Transitgas and TENP gas import pipelines. It said the alleged violations took place between 2000 and 2005.

“There exists currently no other party which has requested to participate at the hearing,” a Commission official said.

Eni declined to comment.

Following the hearing, the Commission can issue a decision or another statement of objections, or drop the case.

Eni said in March that the European Union executive could force it to sell all its ownership and capacity rights on the three pipelines and impose a fine.

German utility E.ON (EONGn.DE) was forced to sell its German long-distance power grid and a fifth of its capacity in November last year to sooth EU competition concerns. RWE (RWEG.DE) also sold parts of its transmission networks for a similar reason. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by Dale Hudson)

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