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Ruhrgas Took Distrigaz Nord

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22 Oct 2004 - 00:00

ECONOMICS - October 22nd 2004

The week of gas distribution privatization reached the culmination point when the contract with Ruhrgas-E.on for Distrigaz Nord has been signed. Approximately 2 million Romanian families will be supplied by two of the leaders in the European Union economy.

by ADRIAN N. IONESCU

Less surprising than the Distrigaz Sud race, which Gaz de France won due to Gazprom, the favorite, the competition for Distrigaz Nord ended with no surprise, the contract being signed yesterday with Ruhrgas, the German company that is part of the energetic giant E.on. The representatives of two economy leaders in the E.U will own 32,000 km of gas distribution network. Some analysts don’t fear saying that the France-Germany tandem is a "hard core" of the E.U. In the Romanian gas distribution, the Gaz de France- Ruhrgas couple is a real "hard core" which will have to use its European force in order to import natural gas from Gazprom cheaper. The privatization contract has been signed by Dorinel Mucea, chief of the Industry Privatization and State’s Shares Office, and by Burckhard Bergmann, president of the director committee of Ruhrgas E.on, together with Achim Saul, chief of the Ruhrgas E.on Sales Department for Central and Eastern Europe.

TRANSACTION TERMS

Ruhrgas will pay 304 million euros in order to become the main shareholder at Distrigaz Nord, an unexpected good price, say the analysts. In a first phase, Ruhrgas will buy 30% of the stocks with 125 million euros and will pay some other 179 million euros through a capital increase, which will bring another 21% of the company’s shares. This way, Distrigaz Nord has been evaluated at 416 million euros, and Ruhrgas will also cover a flat financial debt of 13 million euros.

In 2003 the Distrigaz Nord sales reached 351 million euros. The company controls a 23% segment in the natural gas supplying market and transports through its network 24% of the total amount of natural gas consumed in Romania.

In the 20 counties it covers, Distrigaz Nord has a network of more than 17,453 km of pipes and loads more than 3 billions of burning points at more than 1 million consumers. It operates 59.2% of the local networks in Romania (in 981 locations).

PROSPECTS

The French at Gaz de France, as well as the Germans at Ruhrgas invoked their good relationship with the natural gas supplier, Gazprom, which lost the race for Distrigaz Sud, because it launched a lower financial offer. The Russians offered to fulfill a dream of the Romanian authorities: a supplying contract on a long period of time, so at lower prices. Romanian official sources say that this is not in the state’s concern from now on, and the new owners of Distrigaz have to take care of this business. Their negotiating force could be even higher. In the context, the same sources speak about the experience of the difficulties the Romanian representatives had to face in order to get in Alexei Miller’s office. Ruhrgas owns approximately 7% of the Gazprom stocks and the specialist say that, in time, using share exchange, the Russians might get to own some of the shares of the Romanian natural gas distribution companies.

OWNER

Ruhrgas is one of the greatest companies in Europe, having 75 years of experience in the natural gas distribution area. It has a pipe system of more than 11,000 km. Ruhrgas works with great gas suppliers in Holland, Norway and Russia. In 2003, the Ruhrgas turnover has been 12.1 billion euros, the flat profit has been 909 million euros, and the total gas delivery has summed 58 billion cubic meters of natural gas. The market quotation of Ruhrgas E.on in Germany is approximately 57%.
Translation : SORIN BALAN

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