Latvia could buy unbundled gas utility with Marguerite fund

Marguerite Fund, which recently bought a minority share of the "Latvijas gāze" gas utility, could become one of Latvia's partners in buying the unbundled transmission and storage entity that will come into being as the utility will be split in two as part of gas market liberalization.

That's what Economics Minister Arvils Ašeradens (Unity) told Latvian Television Tuesday morning.

Marguerite Fund could only become a minority shareholder in the unbundled entity, Ašeradens said.

The minister said he had talked the matter over with Aigars Kalvītis, the head of Latvijas Gāze. The end decision has not been taken in this matter, with the minister said he's going to Brussels this week for EU-level discussion.

Marguerite is a fund investing in European infrastructure. It was established with support from six leading European financial institutions and the European Commission.

On February 11 Saeima in the final reading supported energy law amendments stipulating liberalization of the gas market and rules on breaking up the joint-stock company Latvijas Gaze.

According to the bill, Latvijas Gaze will have to become two legally-independent companies by April 3, 2017, of which one will be in charge of the gas transmission and storage system, and the other will be responsible for natural gas distribution and sale.

The process of unbundling should be completed by December 31, 2017. That means that the operator will be a company whose owners will not be affiliated with Latvijas Gāze or its shareholders in any way.

At the moment, there is one company in Latvia - Latvijas Gaze - that buys, stores, transport, distributes and sells natural gas in Latvia. Latvia's natural gas supply system is not connected to any other European Union member state's system, except Lithuania and Estonia, and Russia remains the sole supplier of natural gas to Latvia.

Russia's Gazprom owns 34 percent of Latvijas Gaze shares, Marguerite Fund has 28.97 percent, Uniper Ruhrgas International GmbH - 18.26 percent, Itera Latvija - 16 percent, and minority shareholders - 2.8 percent of Latvijas Gaze shares.

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