* Transparency rules require more staff, changes to admin
* EU can impose heavy fines if it unveils insider practices
* Only 32 pct of firms in study had looked at possible obligations
By Vera Eckert
FRANKFURT, July 2 (Reuters) - Many European utilities are ignoring EU rules to toughen laws against market abuses, but do so at their peril, energy and financial consultancy Baringa said on Monday.
“Utility firms will have to hold available more personnel and technology to comply with new transparency rules within the next 12 months or so, but many are not yet aware of this,” said Maik Neubauer, a partner at the consultancy which released a study based on a poll of 150 companies.
“This is alarming because if they are found to be withholding insider information, there can be hefty penalties imposed by the cartel authorities,” he added. “These are no longer trivial offences.”
The EU drew up the rules - called the Regulation on Energy Market Integrity and Transparency (Remit) - covering the commodities and energy markets last autumn. Remit took effect at the turn of the year but a phase-in time is allowed, while the relevant institutions are built up.
The rules aim at extending prohibitions against insider trading and market manipulation in financials to energy markets such as power, gas, carbon emission rights and energy futures.
Only 32 percent of companies in the Baringa study said they had looked at what obligations they might have to fulfill under Remit and just 45 percent believed Remit might become relevant for their clearing and settlement activities.
Yet Baringa noted utility companies must, for example, disclose the timing of power station outages or gas field maintenances and pipeline bottlenecks.
German companies that already volunteer unilateral information about market-sensitive outages include E.ON and RWE.
One of the biggest changes that Remit may bring could be a stronger focus on exchange-based energy trading, Neubauer said.
Over-the-counter (OTC) markets currently still represent 80 to 90 percent of power and gas trading.