China's Bankers denies abusing dominant oil position in Albania

TIRANA, Oct 24 (Reuters) - China's Bankers Petroleum, the biggest oil producer in Albania, on Thursday denied it had abused its market dominance or broken market rules following complaints from a refiner.

Bankers was reacting to a six-month investigation launched by the Competition Authority into its business from Jan. 1, 2016 to this October to see whether it had abused its dominant position after local refiner Tosk Energji complained to the regulator.

"Bankers has never violated free market and competition rules and moreover has abused with any 'dominant' position," Bankers said in a statement in English to Reuters.

Tosk Energji had complained to the watchdog saying Bankers had either refused to supply it or imposed conditions on its supplies, causing it financial costs, particularly related to having to shut down and restart the refinery at Ballsh.

After investments of more than $2.5 billion at its Patos-Marinza oilfield, Bankers now produces 95% of Albania's crude.

Bankers said it sold crude to all domestic clients at the same price, which was lower than in the international market.

Bankers began exploring in Albania in 2004 and was bought from its Canadian owners by China's Geo-Jade Petroleum Corp 600759.SS in 2016 for C$575 million ($442 million).

The Canadian owners sold their successful Albanian operation after a tax row with the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama over whether Bankers had understated its profit.

(Reporting by Benet Koleka; editing by David Evans)

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