ECONOMY

E.ON Ruhrgas purchases Romanian gas distributor

BUCHAREST/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Germany’s E.ON Ruhrgas yesterday completed a 303-million-euro acquisition of a majority stake in Romanian gas distributor Distrigaz Nord, Romania’s Economy Ministry said. Privatizations in the Balkan state’s debt-ridden energy sector are seen as crucial to the country’s bid to join the European Union in 2007 and have been key conditions in accords with international lenders. «E.ON Ruhrgas has become majority shareholder in Distrigaz Nord with 51 percent,» the ministry said in a statement. Romania signed the deal last October. E.ON Ruhrgas is the unit of E.ON involved in the import, storage and distribution of natural gas. It also oversees the European gas business of the utility, which also deals in power. E.ON paid 125 million euros to buy the Romanian state’s 30 percent stake and another 178 million to increase its stake to 51 percent through a capital increase. The funds raised in the capital increase will be invested in Distrigaz’s infrastructure. Distrigaz Nord, which has over 9,000 employees, supplies natural gas to about 10 million people in northern Romania, out of the ex-communist country’s 22 million population, and operates about 17,000 kilometers of gas pipelines. Under a similar deal completed in May, Gaz de France paid 128 million euros to acquire the state’s 30 percent stake and another 183 million to boost its participation to 51 percent in Distrigaz Sud. The Romanian gas market has had the highest sales in Central and Eastern Europe, with 18 billion cubic meters of annual consumption, E.ON said in a separate statement, adding that demand was expected to rise steadily in the years ahead. Romania currently covers about 65 percent of its needs from domestic sources and imports the balance from Russia. E.ON also signed a deal in April this year to buy a majority stake in Electrica Moldova, a regional power supplier in Romania. The deal has not yet been completed. Other E.ON interests in Romania are power and heat producer CCNE and gas supplier Congaz.