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Ofgas delays final pricing formula

The gas industry regulator, Ofgas, is to wait another week before releasing its controversial final price formula for the British Gas pipeline business, TransCo. Sources within British Gas suggested the differences between the two sides over the price controls remained unbridgeable, and TransCo employees were now starting the lengthy and complex task of preparing for a referral to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

Tough price curbs knock NI Electricity

A much tougher than expected price regime for Northern Ireland Electricity was unveiled by the regulator yesterday, promising a pounds 40 cut in bills for consumers, but sending the share price plunging by 13 per cent.

Letter: MMC ruling on gas pipelines

Sir: You state ("Let the MMC settle the gas pipeline battle", 10July) that, "as far as the regulator is concerned the point about depreciation is non-negotiable: either TransCo accepts this downgrading of the amount of depreciation it is allowed to take out of charges or the whole thing goes to the MMC". TransCo's position on allowing full CCA depreciation is that determined by the MMC in 1993 and that applied by Ofgas in setting the TransCo formula which applies between 1994 and 1997. It appears that Ofgas is certain it can persuade the MMC that the MMC's decision in 1993 not to apply what it called an "arcane adjustment" to depreciation is wrong.

COMMENT : Gas dispute goes to the last resort

With much fanfare, British Gas yesterday launched its counter- attack against what it sees as draconian new price controls from the industry regulator, Ofgas. For us mortals, it is hard to know whom to believe, British Gas or Ofgas. The venom of British Gas's response would perhaps suggest that the regulator has indeed been too harsh. Certainly few would disagree with its comments on the arbitrary, personalised and unaccountable nature of regulatory decision-making. The system is a disgrace and the sooner it is reformed the better.

North Sea fears Ofgas

British Gas and other gas suppliers fear that Ofgas, the industry watchdog headed by Clare Spottiswoode, will seek to extend its remit to gas supplies from the North Sea.

British Gas 'in battle mode'

The gas regulator, Clare Spottiswoode, this weekend warned British Gas it would be taking "a big risk" if it put its complaint about her controversial pricing review to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

On reflection, Ofgas' case is still strong

The Independent found itself virtually alone yesterday among broadsheet newspaper business sections in supporting Clare Spottiswoode, the gas regulator, against the cries of foul emanating from British Gas/TransCo. With the dust beginning to settle on Ofgas's explosive proposals, it is worth asking the question again: are they unfair on shareholders? One difficulty with answering the question is that it is actually quite hard to find any genuinely independent expert to provide an assessment. We phoned National Economic Research Associates, acknowledged experts in the economic regulation of utilities. Er ... hard for us to comment, they said, since we are advising TransCo. What about Professor Michael Beesley of the London Business School? He was part of the last Monopolies and Mergers Commission team to examine these issues so he ought at least to know which side is right to claim MMC support for its view. Sorry old boy, no can do. I'm advising Ofgas, you see.

Hi-tech profit warnings send shares plunging

The dangers of investing in technology stocks were underlined yesterday when two companies in the sector issued profit warnings that sent their share prices into free-fall and left many stockbrokers struggling to hide their embarrassment.

CBI backs Labour on reform of MMC

The Labour Party and the Confederation of British Industry have reached almost identical conclusions about how to reform Britain's competition authorities, it emerged yesterday.

CBI proposes overhaul of MMC system

The Confederation of British Industry yesterday proposed a radical overhaul of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, which it said should be turned into a full-time appeals body with the loss of its present investigative role.

MMC leak inquiry focuses on Offer and OFT

The DTI inquiry into the leaking of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on two takeover bids in the electricity industry is focusing on the Office of Electricity Supply and the Office of Fair Trading.

Lang veto sparks call for merger overhaul

Electricity row: Bid fever spreads through the sector as pressure mounts for a full-scale rethink of competition policy

MMC delivers an early verdict on power firms

Trade Secretary Ian Lang has received reports on the bids for Southern Electric and Midlands Electricity by National Power and PowerGen, fuelling speculation that another bout of takeover activity is about to hit the sector.

MMC takes jaundiced view of Yellow Pages

They may have helped JR Hartley find his obscure book on fly fishing, but BT's Yellow Pages are abusing their monopoly position in classified directories to charge excessive prices to advertisers, according to a Monopolies and Mergers Commission report published yesterday.

LETTER : Contracts crucial to competitive gas

Sir: Lord Gillford (Letters, 27 February) is swift to attack British Gas over "take or pay" contracts. Ninety-eight per cent of contracts were signed before the Government decided to accelerate the development of domestic competition in December 1993. Indeed, 55 per cent of these contracts were actually signed before British Gas was privatised in 1986.
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