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Fondul Proprietatea argues planned gas price cap illegal, puts Romania’s energy independence in jeopardy

Putting a cap on gas sale prices runs counter to Romanian and European law and also jeopardizes Romania’s investments and energy independence, Fondul Proprietatea (FP) said in a release this Friday.

Fondul Proprietatea voices “significant” concerns over the government’s plans to cap the price of natural gas from the domestic production at approximately 70 percent of the current market price, as set forth in a draft Government Decision that was recently released by the Ministry of Public Finance.

“If adopted, the Government Decision would flagrantly breach already approved legislation, as well as Romania’s obligations as EU member state to observe the free market principles and liberalise the gas market. This will have a highly detrimental impact on the economy and market attractiveness for investors, severely discouraging foreign direct investments in the country. Romania’s energy independence will be put at risk and the country may have to rely on external sources of gas at higher prices that the Government will have no control over,” argue fund officials.

Moreover, if the measure would be applied to all consumers, including industrial consumers, this would raise again the issue of discriminatory treatment and potential state aid, as well as result in smaller contributions to the state budget from the gas industry.

“As financial investors we are very surprised and worried that the Government may be erasing years of building credibility in front of the international community through a single decision. Local individual investors, Romanian pension funds, and international institutional investors invested in good faith in the Romanian capital market, in companies like Romgaz and OMV Petrom and are seeing their value being destroyed by the Government with this draft decision,” said Johan Meyer, CEO of Franklin Templeton Investments Limited and Portfolio Manager of Fondul Proprietatea, as cited in the release.

Meyer further argues that through the announcement of this ill considered decision the Government managed to erase more than RON 600 million in the value of its own investments in Romgaz and OMV Petrom, while the total value destruction for the two companies was over RON 1.45 billion in a single day.

“Arbitrarily capping gas prices would throw Romania back in time, as the Ministry of Finance’s proposal backtracks the entire liberalization process that took years to complete and jeopardizes any future investment in the Black Sea, which is essential for Romania’s energy independence,” Meyer goes on to say.

“Moreover, this measure contravenes the EU free market principles and will put Romania in a very bad light shortly before the upcoming EU Council Presidency. Such short term thinking without due regard for the long-term implications for the Romanian economy will not protect consumers, but will ultimately expose them to even higher gas prices in the future,” underscore the FP representatives.

Given the serious and wide-ranging consequences such a decision would have, Fondul Proprietatea urges the Government to withdraw the proposal and safeguard the free market fundamentals of the Romanian economy and the commitments taken in relation to the European Union. These are critical to ensuring sustainable and long term development for the country, concludes the release.

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