Bulgaria watchdog ends Lukoil anti-trust probe, finds no wrongdoing

Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) has ended its investigation of two subsidiaries of Russian privately-held oil major Lukoil, finding that there was no evidence that either of them abused their market position.

The investigation, launched in February 2016, was the result of a complaint filed in 2015 by petrol station operator Tradenet, owned by Veska Mareshka, the mother of businessman Vesselin Mareshki, who has successfully parlayed his networks of pharmacies and cut-price fuel stations into a populist platform that saw him finish fourth in last year’s presidential elections. In the snap parliamentary polls in March, his party Volya won enough votes to make it into Parliament, albeit as the smallest of five parties with 12 MPs in the 240-seat House.

In its decision, made on May 4 but published this week, CPC said that it found no proof of Tradenet’s allegations that Lukoil Neftochim, Bulgaria’s sole oil refinery in the Black Sea port of Bourgas, was abusing its dominant market position, while at the same time saying that Lukoil Bulgaria, the downstream unit, did not hold a dominant market position in the region of Varna, as Tradenet claimed.

As is its practice, the version of the CPC decision posted on its website was redacted to exclude sensitive data deemed a trade secret. However, in this case the redactions were more extensive than usual, and covered even areas such as the factors used by Lukoil’s two subsidiaries in setting their fuel prices – the key elements in the regulator’s reasoning that the two companies did not overstep the boundaries of the law. The decision also did not name Tradenet’s commercial data, excluding from the public record the name of the company’s wholesale suppliers and its market share information.

CPC said that the decision can be appealed by either side or a third-party with legal interest in the proceedings within a period of 14 days.

(Lukoil petrol station. Photo: sociate/flickr.com)



The Sofia Globe staff

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