Centrica, the UK-based parent company to British Gas, has asked the European Commission to intervene in the planned Suez-Gaz de France merger as the firm fears it will be detrimental to competition, especially in the UK market.
Centrica’s appeals to the EU come following the commission’s surprise swoops on the offices of several continental utilities last week. Among the offices visited by commission officials were those of Fluxys and Distrigas, both subsidiaries of Suez operating in Belgium.
Centrica’s concerns apparently focus on access to the Interconnector pipeline from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Bacton on the east coast of England. Centrica has warned the EU that a Gaz de France-Suez alliance would wield even greater power over access to this pipeline at the Belgian end, as the gas destined for the UK would first need to reach the Belgian port via a Suez-dominated pipeline network.
The UK firm believes that ultimately, this would harm competition in the UK market and drive already elevated prices for British consumers up even further.
The combined businesses will have a powerful position over gas flows. This is the last thing the UK needs, given the tightness of supply we saw last winter, Centrica’s CEO Sir Roy Gardner told the Daily Mail newspaper.