Round-Robin Meetings Aimed At Natural Gas Compromise

YERUSHALAYIM (Shimon B. Lifkin) -

Representatives of the Israel government and energy companies held a series of meetings in hopes of averting a protracted legal battle over the proposed breakup of natural gas holdings off the coast, according to Globes.

On Tuesday, Antitrust Authority director general David Gilo, Delek Group controlling shareholder Yitzhak Tshuva, Delek Drilling Limited Partnership chairman and Avner Oil and Gas LP CEO Gideon Tadmor, and Delek Drilling CEO Yossi Abu conducted talks ahead of a hearing that has been put off for sometime next month.

On Monday, National Economic Council chairman Prof. Eugene Kandel presided over a meeting that included officials of the ministries of Energy, Justice, and Finance. The goal was to formulate a government-wide consensus regarding the gas monopoly and to assess the consequences of the events in recent days. Gilo is seeking a breakup of Delek and Noble holdings in the offshore fields, which he decided is monopolistic, and that means abrogating a prior agreement with them.

It is believed that the hearing on the existence of an agreement in restraint of trade will take place in late January, not in the coming days, as had previously been reported. Ministerial officials hope that will give them sufficient time to work out their position on the issue.

At the hearing, the Leviathan gas field partners will try to convince Gilo that they acquired 85% of the rights in Leviathan legally, or else that they should not have received his permission at all.

If Gilo rejects their argument, he will rule that the investment in Leviathan is illegal as an agreement in restraint of trade. Then the lawyers will begin preparing their briefs for proceedings in the Restrictive Trade Practices Tribunal, a process that could take several years to complete.