Quarta-feira, 5 de Março de 2008

Energia: o "unbundling" espontâneo

Têm sido a Alemanha e a França a liderar a oposição às propostas da Comissão Europeia no sentido da separação entre os diferentes níveis de actividade das grandes empresas no sector da energia, o que se explica por ser nesses países que têm sede alguns dos "gigantes" energéticos europeus (e mesmo mundiais), integrados verticalmente desde a produção até à distribuição ao consumidor caseiro.


A Comissão não se deu por vencida e, com o apoio de uma maioria de Estados-membros, tem insistido nas suas propostas como a melhor forma de permitir o acesso de novos operadores ao mercado, um aumento da concorrência e os consequentes benefícios para os consumidores.


Agora, a Comissão dá um golpe de mestre, para estupefacção do governo germânico: logra que a alemã Eon, um dos "gigantes", promova voluntariamente a venda da sua rede, materializando assim o tão almejado "unbundling".


Segundo de diz, os indícios de manipulação de preços nos mercados grossistas de electricidade apurados em diligências de buscas levadas a cabo num conjunto de empresas europeias, em conjugação com o receio de pesadas coimas que, em resultado, a Comissão lhes poderia aplicar, e ainda o temor perante a possibilidade de acções de responsabilidade civil propostas por accionistas e clientes pedindo vultosas indemnizações terão levado à "boa-vontade" da Eon. Resta ver se o exemplo será seguido por outras empresas europeias do sector.


Eon agrees break-up to appease Brussels

By Richard Milne in Frankfurt, Ed Crooks in London and,Sarah Laitner in Brussels

Published: February 29 2008 02:00 | Last updated: February 29 2008 02:00


Eon, Germany's largest electricity and gas group, yesterday agreed in effect to break itself up following pressure from the European Commission. Such a step could fundamentally change the continent's energy industry.

Eon is offering to sell its entire electricity grid in a move that will put an end to its business model of combining both energy production and distribution. It is also planning to sell or swap with a foreign competitor about 20 per cent of its power plant capacity in Germany. The twin disposals are designed to settle the Commission's two antitrust investigations into Eon and are worth a combined €5bn-€10bn ($7.6bn-$15.2bn), according to analysts.

But the move was met with dismay at other integrated European energy groups. It also went against months of lobbying by the French and German governments to stop European Union legislation to force the break-up of such companies.

Both EDF of France and RWE and EnBW of Germany said they would continue to oppose plans to force them to sell their grid activities.

"What Eon has done is unbelievable and has made everybody here very unhappy. It couldn't have come at a worse time," said a senior executive at a large European utility. "The governments are furious."

The Commission welcomed the proposed settlement. It said in a joint statement: "These proposals, if adopted, would structurally change the electricity sector in Germany and could spur competition in the sector to the benefit of domestic and industrial customers."

European energy groups have been under pressure from regulators, both at the European and national level. Eon's proposed settlement combines the two attacks from the Commission by agreeing to break up in return for ending the separate antitrust investigations.

An Eon executive said: "It cuts us free totally. We can look forward instead of spending years dealing with this." A manager at a rival utility disagreed with Eon's combination of the two issues: "It is stupid to confuse the issues. It just looks like Eon lost their nerve."

Vattenfall Europe, the German arm of the Swedish utility, said it was also considering selling its grid as part of several options. National Grid, the owner of the electricity network in the UK and a possible buyer of Eon's grid, greeted the move.

Eon's shares closed about 1 per cent lower last night, but some analysts suggested the sale could give investors a more favourable perception of the company. Lueder Schumacher of Dresdner Kleinwort said it would signal that "Eon is not interested just in dull and boring assets . . . It would introduce a different business model."


Brussels hopeful after Eon deal

By Nikki Tait and Lionel Barber in Brussels and Richard,Milne in Frankfurt

Published: March 1 2008 02:00 | Last updated: March 1 2008 02:00


Buoyed by the success of its break-up settlement with Eon, Germany's largest electricity and gas group, the European Commission is eyeing deals with leading European energy groups, including RWE and EdF.

As the implications of the unexpected pact were digested across the continent yesterday, it emerged that potential exposure to huge damages actions by its -customers and the threat of heavy fines drove Eon to negotiate the deal.

The Commission hopes similar pressure will encourage other companies to follow Eon's lead.

The Eon settlement, hammered out in secret in less than a month, caught Brussels diplomats by surprise. Opposition to energy liberalisation is high in Germany and France.

"This has shot a huge hole in the German-led opposition to energy liberalisation in Europe," one senior European diplomat said.

But other diplomats said Paris and Berlin would continue to pursue their call for a less radical liberalisation scheme and their views would still hold considerable sway. Even so, the ramifications of the Eon settlement for European energy policy could be profound.

In long-running attempts to encourage further liberalisation, the Commission has followed a twin-track policy of legislative proposals and antitrust probes.

The Eon deal - in which the company is committed to selling its electricity grid and disposing of about 20 per cent of its power plant capacity - came as Brussels pursued two cases of alleged antitrust breaches in the electricity sector against it.

In return for the disposals offered by Eon and announced on Thursday, the Commission is expected to drop these antitrust probes.

Although Eon has consistently denied any wrong-doing, Commission officials are believed to have been confident they could make the allegations stick.

The cases followed raids on the offices of a number of European energy groups and focused on alleged manipulation of wholesale electricity prices and other anti-competitive practices.

Eon continued yesterday formally to deny that the proposed settlement was a result of the strength of the Commission's cases.

"It has nothing to do with a confession of guilt. It was about looking forwards and drawing a line under the past," it said.

Eon also felt that its grid activities in Germany were increasingly unattractive after a new network regulator cut back its profits repeatedly and extensively. Company insiders say it is likely that the 4,800MW of power plant capacity it has to dispose of will be swapped with the foreign assets of another European utility.

The two largest European utilities still under investigation by the Commission - France's EdF and Germany's RWE - said they were resisting increased pressure after the Eon deal and insisted they wanted to keep their grid activities.

"It is essential for network security - one of the key aims of any energy policy," said RWE.

EdF said it wanted to preserve its integrated model.

RWE did examine breaking itself up last year, in a project called "Tony". It looked at selling its grid assets but concluded that it was more favourable to hold on to them.

A senior manager said the Commission's antitrust case seemed weak: "Eon lost their nerve. We are very unhappy with what Eon did but there is no panic here. We are sticking to our guns."

publicado por MMP às 11:43
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