LONDON (Reuters) - Ofgem has fined a unit of France’s Engie (ENGIE.PA) for market abuse after one of its traders manipulated wholesale British gas prices over a three month period in 2016, the energy regulator said on Thursday.
It said the trader from Engie Global Markets (EGM) had “spoofed” the National Balancing Point (NBP) month-ahead gas price, a European benchmark gas price.
That means the trader placed bids and offers for the contract without intending to make the trades, thus sending out misleading price signals.
“A market participant alerted Ofgem to suspicious activity on the wholesale gas market,” Ofgem said in a statement.
“Ofgem launched an investigation which found that EGM had engaged in a type of market manipulation called ‘spoofing’ over a three month period between June and August 2016.”
The regulator said it had not found more widespread market manipulation but it had fined EGM £2.1 million because it did not have enough measures to prevent or detect the market abuse.
Ofgem said EGM had fully cooperated with its investigation.
Engie said it “strongly condemns practices that distort the market.”
“The company immediately undertook measures to ensure that such practices are detected and not repeated again by reinforcing the implementation of its existing supervising tools which guarantee a constant and rigorous follow-up and audit of energy trading activities,” it said in emailed comments.
British gas prices, especially its day-ahead and month-ahead contracts TRGBNBPD1 TRGBNBPMc1, are seen as benchmark for European gas prices, alongside the Title Transfer Facility (TTF) Dutch gas prices TRNLTTFMc1.
The month-ahead contracts also act as benchmarks for liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices, helping global commodity traders calculate strategies to ship the fast-growing fuel between countries in the Atlantic and Pacific regions.
Reporting by Sabina Zawadzki; editing by Deepa Babington and Jason Neely