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    Gazprom gives Moldova more time to settle gas bill


Moldovagaz has an immediate reprieve from August payments to Gazprom, but the long-term view on its debt is still a perilous one.

by: Callum Cyrus

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NGW News Alert, Natural Gas & LNG News, Europe, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), News By Country, Moldova, Russia

Gazprom gives Moldova more time to settle gas bill

Gazprom has accepted Moldovan gas utility Moldovagaz's request to postpone an advance payment on this month's contracted gas supplies, Gazprom said August 22 in a Telegram post.

The two sides are locked in negotiations over Moldovagaz's escalating debt load, which Gazprom estimated had reached around $709mn as of last October, a figure in turn disputed by Moldovagaz.

Moldovagaz said on August 17 it was chasing a further $15.8mn from unpaid non-residential gas customers, forcing meter switch offs for some 2,000 non-residential accounts. It now says it was not possible to meet the August advance payment, which led to Gazprom recognising the "exceptional circumstances".

CEO Vadim Ceban has estimated that over the course of August Moldovagaz will accrue 409mn ($21.2mn) lei of "tariff deviations", presumably referring to further debt.

The situation is a political flashpoint for Moldova's pro-Western government, with the main opposition leader now calling for snap presidential and parliamentary elections, and for the country to seek a better gas deal with Moscow.

National regulator ANRE has recommended a new regulated tariff of $899/'000 m3, but this is substantially lower than the $1,458/'000 m3 stipulated in Gazprom's contract.

Moody's sovereign credit rating for the Moldovan state is currently B3 with a negative outlook. The economic cost of Moldovagaz and soaring energy prices have been cited by the International Monetary Fund as key roadblocks to sound fiscal policies.

Rather than moving toward Russia, however, opinion polls suggest the Moldovan electorate increasingly favours strengthened EU ties. A March 2022 survey by Magenta Consulting said EU membership was backed by 61% of Moldovan respondents, up from 52% in the previous month before Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.