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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gref Calls Coal Merger 'Dangerous'

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said Friday that the merger of Gazprom and coal company SUEK was bad for competition, echoing criticism of the deal by UES chief Anatoly Chubais.

"Gazprom's purchase of SUEK's coal assets is a dangerous extreme in economic policies. We should preserve competition in our country," Gref told reporters on the sidelines of an economic forum in Krasnoyarsk.

Gref said that if Gazprom continued its expansion into various industries, the national economy would turn into "19th-century-style monopolistic state capitalism."

That "would leave our country far behind in economic development," he said, Prime-Tass reported.

Chubais, who is overseeing the dismantling of the electricity giant Unified Energy System, has said it was "a big government mistake" to allow Gazprom to expand into coal and power generation.

Gazprom has amassed large oil and power assets in recent years as it has declared a goal of becoming a diversified energy giant like U.S. company ExxonMobil or BP. But Chubais and analysts fear its acquisition of power and coal assets will undermine the country's power-sector liberalization as Gazprom would control top utilities as well as their supply chains. The federal anti-monopoly watchdog has yet to approve the deal, but it has said it is unlikely to block the purchase.

(Reuters, MT)