Save for later Print Download Share LinkedIn Twitter Gazprom this week moved a step closer toward its goal of increasing direct natural gas sales to European consumers, after the European Commission's merger panel approved the proposed joint takeover of Italian gas and electricity supplier Enia Energia by Gazprom-owned ZMB, Austria-based Centrex Europe Energy and Gas (CEEG) and Enia, the Italian parent of Enia Energia. The deal is positive for Russia, as the paper trail of ownership in ZMB leads to the state-controlled Russian gas giant, while CEEG, an Austrian subsidiary of Cypriot holding group Centrex, is affiliated with Gazprombank. The move by Gazprom furthers its inroads into the Italian gas supply market. In September 2007, it inked a 700 MMcm deal to supply Enia in Italy through the Trans Austria Gasleitung gas pipeline, which extends from the Baumgarten gas hub in Austria to Arnoldstein on the Italian border and then on into Italy. Earlier in 2007, Gazprom got permission to begin direct sales of gas to Italian consumers as of Apr. 1, and the Russian company hired Italy's Banca Intesa Sanpaolo to select a local partner to help it sell the gas. The direct sales are part of a broad agreement signed by Gazprom and Italy's Eni in late 2006 that extended the Russian company's supply contracts to Italy through 2035. Eni is currently Gazprom's largest single customer in Western Europe, importing around 22 Bcm/yr (NC Sep.20,p9).