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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gazprom Denies Imminent Bid for British Utility

Gazprom denied talk it was about to bid for a British utility, such as Centrica or Scottish and Southern Energy, saying it was focused on organic growth in the country.

Shares in Centrica and SSE rose earlier after Gazprom deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev said Sunday that his company was close to closing a deal to increase its market presence in Britain.

However, Philip Dewhurst, a spokesman for Gazprom Marketing and Trading, the firm's British unit, said no big deals were planned.

"We don't have Centrica or Scottish and Southern in our sights at the moment. Our plan in the U.K. is to grow our retail business organically," Dewhurst said.

Gazprom supplies gas to industrial clients and commercial users such as department store chain BHS. It has 1 percent to 2 percent of the small and medium-sized business market and hopes to raise this to 10 percent within four to five years, Dewhurst said.

This echoes Gazprom's strategy of snapping up gas distribution assets across Europe in recent years, as it seeks to extract value by controlling the flow of gas from the well to consumers.

Executives' pronouncements do little to play down industry suspicions that the buying spree will end, or even be limited to Gazprom's core gas business.

"With our financial strength, any company in the world is on our watch list," a Gazprom spokesman said.

While this spokesman also said a bid for Centrica was not planned, Gazprom has in the past hinted that Centrica could be a target. The suspicion that Centrica may still be on Gazprom's shopping list had prompted some traders to interpret Medvedev's comments as flagging an imminent takeover.