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UK regulator fines Engie unit for gas price manipulation by trader

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LONDON (Reuters) – Ofgem has fined a unit of France’s Engie <ENGIE.PA> for market abuse after one of its traders manipulated wholesale British gas prices over a three month period in 2016, the energy regulator said on Thursday.

It said the trader from Engie Global Markets (EGM) had “spoofed” the National Balancing Point (NBP) month-ahead gas price, a European benchmark gas price.

That means the trader placed bids and offers for the contract without intending to make the trades, thus sending out misleading price signals.

“A market participant alerted Ofgem to suspicious activity on the wholesale gas market,” Ofgem said in a statement.

“Ofgem launched an investigation which found that EGM had engaged in a type of market manipulation called ‘spoofing’ over a three month period between June and August 2016.”

The regulator said it had not found more widespread market manipulation but it had fined EGM £2.1 million because it did not have enough measures to prevent or detect the market abuse.

Ofgem said EGM had fully cooperated with its investigation and has since taken measures such as increasing surveillance of its traders.

Engie did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

British gas prices, especially its day-ahead and month-ahead contracts <TRGBNBPD1> <TRGBNBPMc1>, are seen as benchmark for European gas prices, alongside the Title Transfer Facility (TTF) Dutch gas prices <TRNLTTFMc1>.

The month-ahead contracts also act as benchmarks for liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices, helping global commodity traders calculate strategies to ship the fast-growing fuel between countries in the Atlantic and Pacific regions.

(Reporting by Sabina Zawadzki, editing by Deepa Babington)

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