(Adds analyst, Uniper's comments, detail)
WARSAW/MOSCOW, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Poland has fined Russia's
Gazprom more than 29 billion zlotys ($7.6 billion) for
building the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline without Warsaw's
approval, its watchdog said on Wednesday, prompting the company
to say it will appeal.
The project has stoked concern about Moscow's dominance of
European energy supplies and attracted U.S. sanctions, although
rival sales of Azeri gas and U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG)
may squeeze Russia's market share in Europe.
Poland's UOKiK anti-monopoly watchdog said it had also
imposed a total fine of 234 million zloty spread across five
other companies involved in financing the $11 billion project to
double Russia's gas export capacity via the Baltic Sea.
Nord Stream 2 is led by Gazprom, with half of the funding
provided by Germany's Uniper and BASF's
Wintershall unit, Anglo-Dutch company Shell, Austria's
OMV and Engie.
OMV and Engie face the biggest fines of 88 million zlotys
and 55.5 million zlotys respectively. Engie declined immediate
comment and OMV has yet to respond to requests for comment.
Following the watchdog's decision, the companies are obliged
to terminate the agreements for financing Nord Stream 2, UOKiK
Gazprom said it has not violated Polish anti-monopoly
regulations and will appeal against the fine.
"The UOKiK ruling breaches the principles of legality,
proportionality and just trial, while the unprecedented size of
the fine is a testament to the desire to oppose the Nord Stream
2 project's implementation by any means," Gazprom said.
Uniper also disagreed with the decision and said it was
considering an appeal. It said a final ruling could take up to
four to five years and any fines would only be payable then.
YEARS OF SCRUTINY
The UOKiK has examined the project for years. In August it
fined Gazprom 213 million zlotys over a lack of cooperation
regarding the project.
"The launch of NS2 will threaten the continuity of natural
gas supplies to Poland. An increase in the price of the product
is also highly likely, with the said increase being borne by
Polish consumers," said Tomasz Chrostny, president of the UOKiK.
"Completion of this investment project increases economic
dependence on Russian gas - not only in the case of Poland, but
also of other European states," Chrostny said.
Most of the gas consumed in Poland is from Gazprom, but
Warsaw has reduced its reliance through LNG purchases, mostly
from Qatar and the United States.
Construction of the 1,230-kilometre Nord Stream 2 pipeline
is complete barring a final stretch of roughly 120 km in Danish
Work stopped in December after pipe-laying company
Swiss-Dutch Allseas suspended operations because of U.S.
sanctions targeting companies providing vessels.
The alleged poisoning of Alexei Navalny, a prominent Kremlin
critic, has led Western politicians to intensify demands to
block the halt the project permanently.
Dmitry Marinchenko, an analyst with Fitch, told Reuters a
permanent stoppage was a risk.
"Europe has yet to work out its opinion on whether
implementing the project in the current environment - after what
had happened to Alexei Navalny - is the right thing to do," he
($1 = 3.8107 zlotys)
(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Additional reporting by
Oksana Kobzeva and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow, Kirsti Knolle
and Vera Eckert in Berlin and Benjamin Mallet in Paris; editing
by Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis)