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Bulgarian sas prices to rise by 20% in 2008

Date: 24.12.2007

Bulgaria's utilities regulator DKEVR ruled on Thursday that natural gas prices next year will rise by a cumulative 20%, reaching a compromise solution with state-owned Bulgargaz.

The two price hikes, each by 9,9%, will be carried out on January 1 and April 1, the regulator said in a statement.

Bulgargaz requested a single hike of 26% from January, while DKEVR initially offered to raise prices by 8% at the beginning of each quarter.

It's likely that Bulgargaz will remain disgruntled with the regulator's ruling, with company officials saying earlier that it would need at least an 11% increase to maintain a cash flow that would allow the firm to pay its own suppliers and a 26% rise to stay profitable.

Bulgargaz has said its rationale for the drastic hike request was the big rise of fuel prices on global markets, but DKEVR is unwilling to trigger the inevitable requests for central heating price hikes, since all heating utilities use natural gas as their primary energy resource.

"Despite gas prices rising by nearly 10%, we won't allow central heating prices to go up half-way through winter," DKEVR chairman Konstantin Shushulov said.

Heating utilities have countered saying that they will not request price hikes if they are subsidised by state-owned power grid operator NEK buying their electricity at higher prices.

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