The announcement came via press release from the Ministry of Finance today. It says that “in order to better competition on the market and provide the lowest prices for citizens and the private sector”, the Ministry of Finance proposes the state establish a company under the Ministry of Economy to develop a chain of gas stations.
Gas stations will be only a part of the future State Oil Company, however. Its main purpose will be securing and managing the mandatory oil reserve. This is currently a job for a special state agency, but the Ministry of Finance feels it should be transferred to a company, established especially to manage the issue.
The ministry has not included any financial framework for the project.
Experts estimate that building such a company from zero would be too costly and would take at least three years. This is why they assume the state would be more inclined to buy an existing company.
Currently the gas retail is owned almost exclusively by large chains, with Lukoil leading the rest by a significant margin. The prices, however, are under regular supervision by the Commission for Protection of Competition. The commission has not found any violations, cartels of non-market price formation.
The commission is carrying out a probe, requested by the Supreme Cassation Prosecutor’s Office. The request came after the Customs Agency issued a report showing that while Brent oil prices had shrunk 47% in March, 2020, the retail gas prices fell by no more than 11%. The Commission for the Protection of Competition will have to check whether there is a secret arrangement among different retailers to keep prices at a certain level.
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