World Bulletin / News Desk
Russia's Gazprom will repay about 1 billion euros ($1.28 billion) to its European clients by the end of the year as part of an agreement to cut gas prices, a company official said on Monday.
The state-run gas producer had agreed to tweak long-term deals with key European customers who claimed that its prices were too high and it returned more than 78 billion roubles ($2.43 billion) in the first quarter.
The repayments failed to stop the European Commision from launching an investigation into Gazprom last week. The Commission is to look at suspected anti-competitive practices in central and eastern Europe and could issue fines of up to $5 billion.
Deputy Chief Executive Alexander Medvedev told a conference call on Monday that the new payments would be "significantly lower" than in the first quarter and would total about 1 billion euros, "plus or minus 10 to 15 percent".
The bulk of this will go to German utility E.ON.
The European Commission's action continues what has been a tense relationship between the European Union and Moscow over energy policy as European governments seek new sources for their gas.
Lithuania and the Czech subsidiary of RWE, Germany's second-biggest utility company, had both been trying to negotiate better deals on their gas from Russia, while Poland's PGNiG went as far as bringing Gazprom into an arbitration court.
Gazprom last week reported a 24 percent fall in first-quarter net profits because of its repayments so far and said that it was ready to cooperate with the European Commission investigation.
Medvedev added that he will soon meet a deputy competition commissioner to discuss the investigation face to face. ($1 = 0.7812 euros)
Volatility eased as traders focused on the world economy and corporate earnings after a week dominated by the dramatic spike in tensions over North Korea, which triggered a global sell-off before prices bounced back Monday.
Investors greeted the more conciliatory tone after US stocks dropped three days in a row last week on President Donald Trump's vow of "fire and fury" if North Korea continued to pursue its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
The ultra-conservative kingdom has moved to diversify its traditionally oil-dependent economy following a sharp fall in crude prices.
In its monthly report on the global oil market, the International Energy Agency said, however, that it believes the supply glut is easing, partly because demand is growing faster.
US stocks have been in retreat since President Donald Trump Tuesday issued a fiery warning to North Korea to halt its nuclear program.
The move by one of Japan's best-known firms greatly reduces the chance of an embarrassing delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE).
London's benchmark FTSE 100 index weakened by 0.5 percent to 7,503.39 points.
The approval by the European Commission comes just over two months after the European Central Bank -- which took on the role of the eurozone's banking supervisor in 2014 -- allowed the sale to go ahead for a symbolic fee of one euro.
BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and Total have all published results in recent days, showing they pocketed $23 billion in net profit in the first half fo the year.
Higher cereal, sugar and dairy prices pushed food price index by 10.2 percent annually in July
HSBC was also a big riser, gaining three percent at £7.65 ($10, 8.5 euros) in late morning trade after the British banking giant announced a share buyback plan alongside a rise in first-half profits.
Both main crude contracts made strong gains, with WTI testing $50 a barrel for the first time since late May and Brent heading towards $53, while mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto saw their share price rise as commodities strengthened.