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17 Feb, 2009 11:16

Russian anti-monopoly probes top four oil companies

The Russian Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) has launched a suit against the country’s leading oil companies.

The big four Rosneft, Lukoil, Gazpromneft and TNK-BP stand accused of committing violations on the petrol market in late 2008 and early 2009.

FAS director Igor Artemyev says all four companies have failed to lower fuel prices to consumers despite the three-fold collapse in the oil price, which elsewhere has led to consumers paying significantly less for oil.

“In my opinion the companies have challenged the government by increasing wholesale price by 30-60% in February. As the governments representative, today we accept this challenge” Artemyev says.

Last year the FAS fined the four companies for setting high prices for petrol. The FAS has stated that on that occasion the fines were the lowest possible, and predicted that if petrol prices increase again, new cases will follow immediately and penalties will be many times more.

In December 2008, Rosneft was fined 1.5 billion roubles, Lukoil 1.44 billon roubles, Gazpromneft 1.3 billion roubles and TNK-BP 1.1 billion roubles.

The slump in oil prices in 2008 led to the oil price falling from US$147 in July to just US$40 in December, but petrol prices in Russia did not fall at the same speed, recording the biggest decline in the first month of winter – by 7.3%.

Currently, petrol prices in Russia are less than 50 eurocents per litre, losing only about 20% in rouble equivalent.