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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

LUKoil dismisses charges of price fixing in U.S.

MOSCOW, August 6 (RIA Novosti) - LUKoil [LKOH], has denied charges of price-fixing in collusion with Saudi Arabian and Venezuelan companies, a spokesman for Russia's largest crude producer said Monday. Russian business daily Kommersant reported that U.S.-based Green Oil had filed a claim against LUKoil, Saudi company Aramco, and state-owned Venezuelan producer PdVSA on charges of price fixing, demanding that the companies sell their U.S. assets, worth a total of $25 million. The LUKoil spokesman said: "The Green Oil allegations, made in a claim filed with the Illinois District Court, are entirely untrue," adding that the company is preparing to file a counter claim. Green Oil, a bio-product company, alleged that the three companies have for years been artificially manipulating production quotas and setting unjustified prices for crude oil and petroleum products, harming independent gas station owners in the United States. It said that January 1, 2002, Saudi Aramco, PdVSA and LUKoil agreed with oil companies in Oman, Mexico, Norway and Angola to reduce production for six months, which caused a rise in wholesale and retail oil and oil product prices in the U.S. market. Green Oil also alleged that other oil companies, including Russia's Rosneft, were involved in the scheme, although they are neither defendants nor third parties in the case. In late June, LUKoil Overseas, LUKoil's international production arm, said it would set up a joint venture with Venezuela's PdVSA. LUKoil Vice President Andrei Kuzyayev said the company was in negotiations with Venezuela on further exploration of the Orinoco River basin deposit.

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