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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gazprom Says it Will Buy Small U.K. Firm

Gazprom on Wednesday revealed the acquisition that one of its top executives had hinted would be announced during the Wimbledon tennis tournament: the British-based gas shipper, Natural Gas Shipping Services.

Gazprom intends to buy NGSS, a spokesman for Gazprom's British unit, Gazprom Marketing and Trading, said.

Cheshire, England-based NGSS handles gas shipments for gas supplier Pennine Natural Gas, which Gazprom acquired last year.

Earlier this month, Gazprom deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev offered some cryptic comments about a takeover in Britain. He said at a conference in St. Petersburg that Gazprom would make an acquisition in Britain "in the nearest future," and that spectators at the Wimbledon tennis tournament "will hear about" the deal. Wimbledon began this week.

His statement caused shares in Centrica, Britain's largest energy supplier, to rise as much as 5.1 percent in early trading.

The next day, the Gazprom spokesman, Philip Dewhurst, denied any plans to buy Centrica or any other major British utility.

"The deal he referred to is the completion of our acquisition of NGSS, following our acquisition a year ago of Pennine," Dewhurst said in an e-mail.

Gazprom Marketing and Trading already owns part of NGSS and has an option to buy the remainder, Dewhurst wrote. He did not say how much Gazprom would pay or when the deal would go through.

"NGSS is the sister company which actually ships the gas to the customers," Dewhurst wrote, referring to Pennine's cooperation with NGSS. "We are hoping this acquisition will soon be complete. We currently have no major domestic retail suppliers as acquisition targets."

Dewhurst described NGSS as "a very small business with less than 1 percent of the U.K. gas market."