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  • Bloomberg

    U.S. Sanctions a Russian Pipeline Too Late to Stop It

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- The long-threatened U.S. sanctions against Nord Stream 2, Russia’s $10.5 billion natural gas pipeline to Germany, will finally take effect next week, but their timing and design can only slow down the project’s now-certain completion. Even so, Ukraine, the primary injured party from the new pipeline, is grateful for small favors from Washington.The sanctions — crafted by Senators Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, and Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat — have been attached to the 2020 National Defense Appropriations Act, which already has been approved by Congress; President Donald Trump has promised to sign it. The State and Treasury Departments will have 60 days to present to Congress a list of vessels involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2 and another Russian pipeline, TurkStream, and of people and firms that provided these ships. Those people and entities will have 30 days to wind down their business or they will be barred from entry to the U.S. and could have their assets frozen.The sanctions come too late to hurt TurkStream, which runs under the Black Sea to the western area of Turkey. The underwater part of the pipeline is complete and even filled with Russian natural gas. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the pipeline would be operational in early January.Nord Stream 2, a twin pipeline running under the Baltic Sea that allows Russia to avoid shipping gas overland through Ukraine, is another matter. Gazprom, the monopoly exporter of Russian pipeline gas, originally intended to complete it by the end of the year, and still had a chance to do in late October, when the Danish government gave permission to lay pipe in its waters. But inclement weather has played havoc with the construction, and earlier this week, the project’s operating company promised completion “in the coming months.” In late November, Dmitri Kozak, Russia’s deputy prime minister in charge of energy, said Nord Stream 2 would begin operation “in mid-2020.”Even with the effective 90-day grace period allowed by the U.S. sanctions, the last 168 kilometers of each of the two strings of pipe may not be laid by the time the punitive measures kick in. It’s unlikely that Allseas, the Swiss-based contractor now working on Nord Stream 2, will defy the U.S. restrictions if it’s not done in time. Then, Gazprom will need to use the only pipe-laying vessel it owns, the Academician Chersky, to finish the job — a slow and iffy scenario, even if Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Nord Stream 2 won’t be halted. Congress could have been much harsher with its sanctions, though. It could have hit Nord Stream 2’s financial investors, all major European energy companies: Engie SA, Uniper SE, OMV AG, Wintershall Dea GmbH and Royal Dutch Shell Plc. It could have sanctioned Russian debt. It could have made it impossible to import equipment for the construction of Russian pipelines and do repairs and maintenance on them. All of these measures have been considered at various times, but struck down in order to avoid a major confrontation with the European Union and an upheaval in financial markets.As things stand, the punitive measures have the appearance of a vindictive gesture, a nuisance move that won’t change what comes next. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s grand plan of supplying gas both to Europe bypassing Ukraine and to China through the just-opened Power of Siberia pipeline can no longer be scuppered. The likely Nord Stream 2 delay may even be beneficial for Russia, in a way. Competition from Middle Eastern and U.S. liquefied natural gas and warm weather have driven down the price of Russian pipeline gas in Europe. In the three months through September, the average gas price, $169.8 per 1,000 cubic meters, was 18% lower than in the preceding three months and 32% lower than a year before. The last time Gazprom faced such prices was in 2004. Increasing supplies in such a market situation would send prices tumbling even further.No matter how carefully the U.S. sanctions are crafted to spare European allies, Germany is still irritated. On Thursday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tweeted in response to the U.S. measures that “the European energy policy will be decided in Europe, not in the U.S. We fully reject external interference and extraterritorial sanctions.” Theoretically, the European Union could even retaliate by raising duties on American LNG.But the U.S. sanctions, belated, weak and irritating to the German government as they are, still aren’t completely pointless. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office thanked U.S. Congress for them on Thursday, and while Ukraine routinely thanks Western governments for sanctioning Russia, this time there’s a specific reason for the gratitude. Ukraine and Russia are locked in a dispute over the future of Russian gas supplies through Ukraine’s pipeline system. The current contract runs out at the end of the year, and Ukraine wants a long-term agreement to replace it while Russia doesn’t want to commit itself. The possibility of a protracted delay to Nord Stream 2 strengthens the Ukrainian position because it makes Russia nervous, and time is running out for the EU-brokered negotiations if supplies of Russian gas to Europe are to continue without interruption. To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • How Much Did ENGIE SA's (EPA:ENGI) CEO Pocket Last Year?
    Simply Wall St.

    How Much Did ENGIE SA's (EPA:ENGI) CEO Pocket Last Year?

    Isabelle Kocher has been the CEO of ENGIE SA (EPA:ENGI) since 2016. This analysis aims first to contrast CEO...

  • Mexico’s Latest Hit to Energy Investors Upends Wind, Solar Aid

    Mexico’s Latest Hit to Energy Investors Upends Wind, Solar Aid

    (Bloomberg) -- Mexico’s president is upending a system to encourage renewable-power development, dealing another blow to efforts to attract private investment to the nation’s energy sector.The government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is changing rules for clean-energy credits, allowing aging hydroelectric dams operated by Mexico’s state-owned utility to qualify. The move, critics say, dilutes the value of credits initially intended for new wind and solar farms.It’s the latest step by the leftist Lopez Obrador administration creating uncertainty for investors pushing to do business in Mexico. In February, the government canceled a power auction expected to draw energy titans including Italy’s Enel SpA and France’s Engie SA. And for months, the administration locked horns with billionaire Carlos Slim’s company over natural gas pipelines.The changes to clean-energy credits are “a blow to prospects for private investment in what had been until recently Latin America’s hottest renewable energy market,” said James Ellis, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst.Julio Valle, of the Mexican Association of Wind Energy, said allowing old plants operated by Comision Federal de Electricidad, known as CFE, to qualify for credits could hobble efforts to create competitive markets and promote clean energy. The organization is considering legal action, Valle said.In a statement, Mexico’s energy ministry said the change was intended to “set a level playing field by including hydroelectric power.” A spokesman did not respond to a question about whether the move would hurt wind and solar development.Companies that could be affected by the change include subsidiaries of Enel, Engie and Spain’s Iberdrola SA, which all earn credits under the program.Mexico’s clean-energy program awards credits to power plants for every megawatt-hour they produce. They can be sold to big users of electricity that are required by the government to buy a certain amount of renewable power, creating an extra revenue stream for wind and solar farms.Awarding credits to old hydro plants will flood so many onto the market that they’ll be virtually worthless for stimulating development, critics say.“They were intended only for new projects. So if you’re going to give them retroactively to old projects, what’s really the purpose?” said Lisa Viscidi, director of energy, climate change and extractive industries at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.It appears that a key reason for the change is that Lopez Obrador wants to use the credits to help bail out the ailing state utility, Viscidi said. While the president has said he wants to reduce Mexico’s dependence on U.S. gas, that’s taking a back seat to propping up CFE, she said.“There’s been a creeping rollback of the part of the energy reform that favored renewables,” Viscidi said. “Little by little, it’s been undermining the renewables sector.”\--With assistance from Amy Stillman.To contact the reporter on this story: Justin Villamil in Mexico City at jvillamil18@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Carolina Wilson at cwilson166@bloomberg.net, Joe Ryan, Steven FrankFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • The Europeans Are Coming for U.S. Power Markets

    The Europeans Are Coming for U.S. Power Markets

    (Bloomberg) -- The Europeans are coming for America’s power markets.Prodded by their own governments into slashing emissions and getting out of coal, European companies are a step ahead of their U.S. counter parts. Orsted A/S, the world’s biggest offshore wind developer, in October opened an office in Chicago, while Danske Commodities A/S set up a subsidiary in Connecticut in the summer. Oil trader Trafigura Group Ltd. is also expanding into electricity.The European and U.S. markets are the most mature in the world and transparency has increased greatly in the past decade. Millions of data points on supply and demand, from sunshine in Spain to Texan wind levels, are fed into sophisticated software that more and more frequently also trade on its own. But the penetration of renewables into the grid has has gone further in Europe.“There’s definitely a trend here,” said Peter Henry, managing director at HW Anderson Ltd. in New York, who has hired for utilities, banks and trading houses for more than a decade. “There are opportunities for them to apply similar strategies that have worked in Europe in the past.”InCommodities A/S, a Danish firm started just two years ago, is planning a U.S. office in the first half of next year. Veteran trader Jeppe Hojgaard was appointed U.S. head in September and its first hire will join in January. The team will be a mix of local and existing staff from its office in Aarhus, a European hub for short-term trading driven mainly by solar and wind.“We’re seeing strong growth of renewables in the U.S.,” Jesper Johanson, chief executive officer of InCommodities, said in an interview. “It’s a supply mix that we’ve been good at working with in Europe.”Some of the biggest trading houses are also expanding. Trafigura this autumn started a power and renewables desk focusing on European and U.S. power and plans to invest in green generation plants. Mercuria Energy Group Ltd. last year bought Noble Group Ltd.’s U.S. power and gas operations. From Houston, the company has expanded its presence in the wholesale market and is now trading electricity coast to coast, according to its website.While the U.S. and European power sectors are much smaller than the biggest commodity markets, Americans spent more than $400 billion on electricity last year. Trading in Europe amounted to 459 billion euros ($506 billion) in 2018, but there’s been little growth since 2014, according industry consultant Prospex Research Ltd.Other developments:Dutch firm Priogen Holding BV hired Chris Ray in Houston as a senior power trader from Twin Eagle Resource Management LLC. He has almost two decades of experience in U.S. electricity markets, according to his LinkedIn profile.Swiss utility Axpo Holding AG will “continue to gradually expand its activities,” in U.S. markets after setting up its first office outside Europe in New York in 2016, a spokesman said.Engie SA, the French utility which plans to add about one gigawatt of renewable energy in North America every year, is also hiring. One position in Houston was posted on Nov. 7. “Where we want to develop renewables, we’ll need more,” Gwenaelle Avice-Huet, chief executive officer of its North America arm, said in an interview.New entrants could do worse than take a leaf out of EDF Trading Ltd.’s book. The division of France’s national utility has been active in the U.S. since buying a Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. unit at the height of the last financial crisis.Diversifying across continents and markets helped generate a profit of almost 3 billion euros in the past five years, according to financial reports. Europe and Asia can learn from the U.S. market too, said Philipp Bussenschutt, EDFT’s chief commercial officer.“There has been a great deal of technological innovations in the U.S. market over the past ten years, first with shale, then LNG exports and now with integrated renewable product offerings,” he said. “We have to be aware of what is happening all around the world.”Uniper SE’s commodity arm has also been active in the U.S. for many years. Part of the attraction is to help the many private equity firms who invested in U.S. power plants to sell their production to municipalities, said Marco de Jong, director of gas trading operations and in charge the North American division.The company has increased staff to about 60 in mainly Chicago and Houston, from about 30 only 18 months ago. Further expansion is planned, especially in short-term trading, he said. The trading unit of Uniper’s German peer, RWE AG, is also trading U.S. power from its headquarter in Essen.Also in Chicago, Orsted has so far hired one local trader for its new office. It’s also a city where Lincoln Clean Energy LLC, the renewable developer it bought for $580 million a year ago, is based. Orsted plans to boost staff to 10 by next year, Morten Buchgreitz, head of markets and bioenergy, said in an interview. The firm has started trading the ERCOT market in Texas, where Lincoln has wind parks.“We have a long experience of what happens to power market prices when you introduce a lot of renewable capacity with low marginal cost,” he said. “But it is also a different kind of market so we need people with local knowledge.”Increasing imports of liquefied natural gas from the U.S. to Europe is also driving expansions, said Jamie Tranter, an executive consultant at recruiting firm Proco Commodities Ltd. in New York. Gas is one of the main price drivers for power in Europe.“Any European utility who is buying U.S. LNG and is exposed to U.S. pricing will look to move here, he said.To contact the reporters on this story: Lars Paulsson in London at lpaulsson@bloomberg.net;Jesper Starn in Stockholm at jstarn@bloomberg.net;Christopher Martin in New York at cmartin11@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Do Investors Have Good Reason To Be Wary Of ENGIE SA's (EPA:ENGI) 5.3% Dividend Yield?
    Simply Wall St.

    Do Investors Have Good Reason To Be Wary Of ENGIE SA's (EPA:ENGI) 5.3% Dividend Yield?

    Could ENGIE SA (EPA:ENGI) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to...

  • Is ENGIE SA's (EPA:ENGI) High P/E Ratio A Problem For Investors?
    Simply Wall St.

    Is ENGIE SA's (EPA:ENGI) High P/E Ratio A Problem For Investors?

    This article is for investors who would like to improve their understanding of price to earnings ratios (P/E ratios...

  • Where ENGIE SA's (EPA:ENGI) Earnings Growth Stands Against Its Industry
    Simply Wall St.

    Where ENGIE SA's (EPA:ENGI) Earnings Growth Stands Against Its Industry

    After looking at ENGIE SA's (ENXTPA:ENGI) latest earnings announcement (30 June 2019), I found it useful to revisit...

  • Starbucks Wins, Fiat Loses, Apple Kept Guessing in EU Rulings

    Starbucks Wins, Fiat Loses, Apple Kept Guessing in EU Rulings

    (Bloomberg) -- Starbucks Corp. won a court fight and a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV unit lost one over European Union tax orders in decisions that left lawyers puzzling over the impact on Apple Inc.’s chances of toppling a record 13 billion-euro ($14.3 billion) bill.Even though the amounts at stake in Tuesday’s rulings -- about 30 million euros each for Starbucks and Fiat -- aren’t huge, lawyers are now poring over the judgments ahead of multiple appeals as companies, including the iPhone maker, counter EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager’s five-year crackdown on allegedly unfair tax deals.While Vestager generally came out of the latest rulings on top, “what this bodes for the eventual decision in the Apple case is still not clear,” said Howard Liebman, a tax partner at Jones Day, a Brussels law firm. He isn’t involved in the disputes. “There will be no ‘cookie cutter’ decisions relying on broad or sweeping generalizations about paying one’s ‘fair share’ of tax,” he said.The EU General Court in Luxembourg said Tuesday that the EU failed to show that coffee giant Starbucks obtained an unfair tax deal by the Netherlands. The judges threw out a similar challenge by Fiat over its fiscal arrangements in Luxembourg.“The principles laid down in these judgments provide some ammunition for both the taxpayers and the commission in the ongoing investigations,” said Natura Gracia, a lawyer with Linklaters in London.Tax AgreementsChallenges have been piling up at the EU courts since state-aid investigators started work in 2013 to unearth what they deemed to be the most problematic examples of otherwise legal individual tax agreements, known as tax rulings, doled out to companies by member countries.Luxembourg’s finance ministry said it would “analyze the judgment” and pointed out that the government “in the past few years has done numerous reforms to find against fiscal fraud and tax evasion.”The Dutch finance ministry is “glad there is clarity” following the court ruling, deputy finance minister Menno Snel said in an emailed statement. The judgment “means that the tax authorities have not treated Starbucks better or differently than other companies,” he said.Fiat said in an emailed statement that while it’s disappointed with the ruling and considering its next steps, the decision isn’t material to the group.No ‘Special’ TreatmentStarbucks said in a statement that it pays its taxes wherever they are due and that the ruling in its challenge “makes clear” that it “did not receive any special tax treatment from the Netherlands.”The decisions, which can be appealed to the EU Court of Justice, “give important guidance” to the commission on how to apply EU state aid rules in tax cases, and the regulator will study them before deciding on the next steps, according to a statement by Vestager.She said they “confirmed the commission’s approach to assess whether a measure is selective and if transactions between group companies give rise to an advantage under EU state-aid rules based on the so-called ‘arm’s length principle’.”Vestager, who’s set to take on another five-year stint as competition commissioner, said she’ll continue to look at “aggressive tax planning measures under EU state aid.” Ultimately, the goal is that all companies “pay their fair share of tax,” she said.In the Apple case, the EU said Ireland illegally reduced the company’s tax bill, a finding Apple and Irish officials don’t accept.Apple declined to comment Tuesday beyond pointing to its remarks in a hearing in its own appeal at the same court last week. It told judges it’s “now paying around 20 billion euros in tax in the U.S. on the very same profits that the Commission says should also have been taxed in Ireland.”The guidance from judges on the European Commission’s use of state aid law could also have an impact on Vestager’s tax probes, now centering on fiscal deals done by Alphabet Inc. and Ikea.Starbucks and Fiat were targeted on the same day in 2015 by a similar EU order to pay back 30 million euros each over their tax arrangements in the Netherlands and Luxembourg respectively.The EU said at the time the companies did this by setting prices for products and services sold between units -- called transfer prices -- that didn’t reflect market conditions.“These two judgments prove that the court will look at the precise facts of each state aids case brought before it and judge each on their individual merits,” Liebman said in an email.Finding itself at the receiving end of most of the EU’s decisions since then, Luxembourg was ordered to recoup 250 million euros from Amazon.com Inc. in 2017 and 120 million euros in back taxes from energy utility Engie SA, France’s former natural-gas monopoly, previously known as GDF Suez, last year.The cases are: T-636/16 - Starbucks and Starbucks Manufacturing Emea v. Commission, T-755/15 - Luxembourg v. Commission, T-759/15 - Fiat Chrysler Finance Europe v. Commission, T-760/15 - Netherlands v. Commission.\--With assistance from Ruben Munsterman and Tommaso Ebhardt.To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at sbodoni@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net, Peter Chapman, Paul SillitoeFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Reuters - UK Focus

    EU gas pipeline rules could slow Russia's Nord Stream 2

    BRUSSELS/COPENHAGEN, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The European Union reached a provisional deal on Wednesday on new rules governing import gas pipelines, casting doubt over the operating structure of Russia's planned Nord Stream 2. The Russian pipeline already faces uncertainty after Denmark's potential ban on its planned route through its territorial waters and sanction threats by the United States.

  • Reuters - UK Focus

    EU brings industry together to tackle dollar dominance in energy trade

    BRUSSELS/LONDON, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The European Union has convened a wide-ranging industrial group to work on promoting the euro and fighting the monopoly of the U.S. dollar in oil and commodities trading, reflecting broader tensions with Washington over trade and sanctions. The group, which involves executives from European oil firms such as OMV (IOB: 0MKH.IL - news) and Eni (LSE: 0N9S.L - news) and gas and power firms such as Fluxys and Engie (LSE: 0LD0.L - news) , will meet behind closed doors in Brussels under the auspices of the European Commission on Thursday. Participants are invited to dig into "constraints on (market-initiated) alternatives to the use of U.S. dollar through wider use of the euro, in spite of the benefits of such a change", the Commission said in materials prepared for the meeting.

  • Reuters - UK Focus

    EU nations back rules that may stall Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline

    European Union nations backed a plan to regulate Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline on Friday, a move that will likely slow but not rule out its construction. The long-stalled agreement comes after a last-ditch German and French push to amend the draft and give Berlin a greater say in how to ensure the pipeline to carry Russian gas to Europe under the Baltic Sea complies with EU law. Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed the vote as an example of Berlin's close ties with Paris after the two major European powers, which both have firms invested in the project, were publicly at odds ahead of the EU meeting.

  • Reuters - UK Focus

    France's Altran Tech hit by cyber attack

    French engineering consultancy Altran (Paris: FR0000034639 - news) Technologies was the target of a cyber attack last Thursday that hit operations in some European countries, it said on Monday. Altran said it had shut down its IT network and applications and a recovery plan was under way. "We have mobilised leading global third-party technical experts and forensics, and the investigation we have conducted with them has not identified any stolen data nor instances of propagation of the incident to our clients," it said.

  • Reuters - UK Focus

    LIVE MARKETS-What's on the radar: Scout24, Wienerberger, William Hill

    * European stocks futures down * China Q4 GDP growth in line at 6.4% * Overall 2018 growth slowest since 1990 Jan 21 - Welcome to the home for real-time coverage of European equity markets brought to you ...

  • Reuters - UK Focus

    LIVE MARKETS-Futures dip after China data, as Brexit Plan B awaited

    * European stocks futures down * China Q4 GDP growth in line at 6.4% * Overall 2018 growth slowest since 1990 Jan 21 - Welcome to the home for real-time coverage of European equity markets brought to you ...

  • Reuters - UK Focus

    LIVE MARKETS-Headlines to watch: Alstom-Siemens, ProSieben, Casino

    * European stocks seen rising * China Q4 GDP growth in line at 6.4% * Overall 2018 growth slowest since 1990 Jan 21 - Welcome to the home for real-time coverage of European equity markets brought to you ...

  • Reuters - UK Focus

    Germany should stick to Nord Stream 2 project - MSC chairman

    Germany should finish the Russian-backed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline despite U.S. opposition and growing domestic concerns, but future energy projects should be coordinated by the European Union, a veteran German diplomat said on Thursday. Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, said the initial "birth defect" of the $11 billion project was the fact that European treaties had allowed the German government to deem the project as purely commercial. The pipeline, which would carry gas straight to Germany under the Baltic Sea, has been criticised in some quarters because it would deprive Ukraine of lucrative gas transit fees, potentially making Kiev more vulnerable in the future.

  • Reuters - UK Focus

    U.S. warns German companies of possible sanctions over Russian pipeline

    The United States has warned German companies involved in the Russian-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that they could face sanctions if they stick with the project. U.S. President Donald Trump has accused Germany of being a "captive" of Moscow because of its reliance on Russian energy and urged it to halt work on the $11 billion gas pipeline.

  • Reuters - UK Focus

    Germany's Wintershall says Nord Stream 2 partners invested over 6 bln euros - RIA

    The partners in the Russian-owned Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project have already invested more than 6 billion euros , RIA news quoted Mario Mehren, the chairman of Germany's Wintershall company, as saying ...

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