Italys major energy company, ENI (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi) has been fined a record 290 million by the antitrust authority which oversees fair play and competition in business. The fine has been imposed on ENI for abusing its dominant position. The anti-monopoly body claims that the group has prevented competitors from entering the market for the transportation of gas from North Africa. It is also demanding a ten per cent increase in the amount of gas to be brought to Italy from North Africa by 2007 and that 6.5 million cubic metres of gas per year should be transported by companies other than ENI.

The fine to ENI comes as Italy is suffering an energy crisis caused by cuts in gas supplies from Russia which has forced the Italian government to draw on its emergency reserves.

The fine to ENI is the largest ever on a single Italian company for disregarding the competition rules and the second largest ever inflicted in Europe after the fine of 497 million handed down to the computer software giant Microsoft by the European Union. ENI is expected to appeal against the fine.