Putin Accuses Gazprom of Being Inefficient
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused Russia's largest and most powerful company Gazprom on Wednesday of being inefficient.
Putin's criticism of the world's largest natural gas firm came during a meeting in which Gazprom reported disappointing export numbers that showed a small 2010 decline.
Gazprom deputy chief executive Valery Golubev said the company's gas exports fell 1.5 percent to 138.6 billion cubic metres last year, attributing the drop to lower European demand.
"You either work in an efficient manner or we will be forced to change the existing rules and move in favour of a change in the legislation," the RIA Novosti news agency quoted Putin as saying.
Putin's comments appeared to refer to a law confirming Gazprom's monopoly status -- a rule that the government has defended because of the company's importance to Russia's economy.
The Russian leader said Gazprom must invest more in pipeline development and allow private producers such as Novatek (Read More HERE) to more freely access its lines.
Putin also admonished the company for its failure to share its natural gas pipelines with independent producers.
"There is a deficit of (natural gas) capacities," said Putin.
The European Union has long pressured Moscow to break up its natural gas monopoly and bring competition to a Russian export market that supplies Europe with about a quarter of its annual natural gas needs.
Putin did not set a specific date by which he expected Gazprom to alter its pipeline policy.