Czech power group CEZ opens procedure against Albania

Czech state-run power giant CEZ said on Thursday it had launched arbitration proceedings against Albania to seek damages after the Balkan state revoked its local distribution licence.

Ranked Central Europe's biggest utility and public company, CEZ said in a statement that Albania had failed to protect the company's investment there, in the electricity distributor Shperndarje.

CEZ did not disclose the amount of damages sought, but Czech media said it could be as high as five billion koruna ($250 million, 190 million euros).

The firm paid 102 million euros to take control of Albania's monopoly electricity distributor in 2009, leaving the Albanians with a 24-percent stake.

After clashing with the Tirana government and energy officials, CEZ said late last year it would sell its share in Shperndarje.

Then, in January, Albania's energy regulator stripped CEZ of its local licence, blaming it for severe electricity and water shortages in several regions.

CEZ argued it was forced to cut power and water over unpaid bills.

The company, which is 70-percent state-owned, operates in around 10 countries, mainly in eastern and central Europe.

It also faces problems in Bulgaria, where the energy regulating body DAKEVR launched action against it last month, following demonstrations over the energy price.

CEZ reported a net profit last year of 40.2 billion koruna, a 1.5-percent drop from the prior year.