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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Firtash Looking to Diversify Business Away from Trading

KIEV -- Ukrainian billionaire Dmitry Firtash's new holding company plans to expand its energy interests and supply more natural gas to Europe by purchasing assets in North Africa, the Middle East and Scandinavia.

Firtash owns Hungarian gas trader Emfesz and 45 percent of Ukraine's only gas supplier, RosUkrEnergo, and plans to roll them into his new company, Group Dmitry Firtash, or GDF. RosUkrEnergo got control of Ukrainian gas supplies early last year.

"Europe requires more and more gas each year," Robert Shetler-Jones, the CEO at GDF, said Thursday in his first media interview. "Obviously, we want to increase access to gas supply in the former Soviet Union countries and internationally."

Firtash, who has a net worth of $2.4 billion, according to Polish magazine Wprost, consolidated his energy, chemical, and pipeline construction business into GDF. Energy makes up as much as 85 percent of the new company's business, and GDF want to increase that by "diversifying the business apart from pure trading," Shetler-Jones said.

RosUkrEnergo emerged as the only supplier of gas to Ukraine after Gazprom cut off shipments to the country for four days in January 2006.

"We have a contract with Turkmenistan until 2028," Shetler-Jones said. "RosUkrEnergo will seek to buy more assets within the former Soviet Union and outside."

RosUkrEnergo will use "generated income to invest in larger business," including "gas storage, gas distribution, and gas pipelines," Shetler-Jones said.

GDF will also expand Emfesz to include "new types of energy-related business," Shetler-Jones said. He did not elaborate.

n Firtash is involved in a financial dispute with his former wife, Maria Firtash, which could affect his ownership of key assets, including companies in GDF, the Financial Times reported Saturday.