André Jurres

This week it became clear that Centrica used its right(they owned together with Gaz de France 51% of SPE of which the shares were parked in a holding company) to buy all shares of Gaz de France(25,5%) in SPE and as such they have become the majority shareholder.  With  51% they can propose a change in strategy for example or a change in management.  In the short run there are not that many options to change strategy as the energy market in Belgium is locked tight.  The large shifts for this year have happened, meaning the sell of Distrigas to ENI and the sell of Gaz de France's shares in SPE.  The battle for the majority in the LNG terminal is still going on between the municipalities (Publigas) and Suez.  Somebody of the press asked me this week what the interest was behind wanting to have the majority in the LNG terminal, it is flexibility or simply said money.  Having storage of gas gives you for example the opportunity to use your reserves when gas prices go up.  As the need for gas is increasing for the next decades it is clear that having large storage capacity is a strategic advantage.  On the second question if prices would go down if Publigas would be able to acquire the majority I expressed my doubts as gas prices are set internationally. 
To come back to the first topic about Centrica it also was announced that they are bidding together with EDF on British Energy who owns nuclear plants.  As this is off far more importance for Centrica than having more shares in SPE it is possible that EDF and Centrica understand each other's needs very good and as such have not started a big battle over the shares of SPE(remember that EDF had launched a bid on the shares of Gaz de France) As Centrica also has a retail position in the Netherlands it seems that they have decided to stay for now.  If SPE has not become weaker now that Gaz de France is not longer there as in house gas supplier (buying power) will become visible as soon as we get the financials in the years to come.  As SPE mostly runs its production plants on gas it needs stability on its wholesale price, not simple when the boss of Gazprom says earlier this month that gasprices are likely to increase with another 40% before the end of the year.