TAIPED tries to lure EU firms back to DEPA-DESFA ten­ders

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY CHRYSSA LIAGGOU

The ten­der for the pri­va­ti­za­tion of Greece’s two main gas com­pa­nies has drawn con­sid­er­able in­ter­est in re­cent weeks, with in­creased ac­tiv­ity not only on a busi­ness level but also on a diplo­matic one.

West­ern Euro­pean com­pa­nies are re­assess­ing the po­ten­tial in­vest­ment in Pub­lic Gas Cor­po­ra­tion (DEPA) and gas trans­mis­sion net­work op­er­a­tor DESFA af­ter their in­ter­est was rekin­dled with the open­ing last month of a win­dow of op­por­tu­nity for bid­ders who had taken part in the first phase of the ten­der with­out con­tin­u­ing later.

The state pri­va­ti­za­tion fund (TAIPED), which has stated its in­ten­tion to grant the ten­der to the high­est bid­der, has re­port­edly asked Rus­sia’s Ne­gus­neft – which has of­fered 1.9 bil­lion eu­ros for both com­pa­nies – to pro­vide a let­ter of guar­an­tee for a sig­nif­i­cant amount, which would al­low the fund to ask for im­proved of­fers from other can­di­date buy­ers in case the Rus­sian bid­der pulls out.

The tar­get there­fore is at this stage to once more at­tract the in­ter­est of ma­jor Euro­pean com­pa­nies, namely Ena­gas and Gaz Nat­u­ral from Spain, Vopak from the Nether­lands and above all ENI and Edi­son from Italy.

What TAIPED did to let them back into the race was to al­low ini­tial bid­ders to re­turn to the ten­der by set­ting up a con­sor­tium with the can­di­dates that have stayed on in the ten­der. Th­ese are Rus­sia’s Ne­gus­neft and Gazprom (that has bid for DEPA only), the M+M con­sor­tium of the Vardi­noyian­nis and Myti­li­neos groups (for DEPA), the con­sor­tium of Czech fund PPF with GEK-TERNA (only for DESFA), and Az­eri state firm Socar (for DESFA).

TAIPED’s de­ci­sion may change the land­scape in the ten­der, which has so far seen Gazprom and Ne­gus­neft emerge as fa­vorites. This has gen­er­ates wor­ries in Europe and the United States re­gard­ing the scope of Rus­sia’s in­flu­ence in South­east Europe, fol­low­ing the dis­cov­ery of new hy­dro­car­bon re­serves.

Geopo­lit­i­cally, things could be sim­pli­fied ei­ther by an al­liance be­tween Gazprom and a west­ern Euro­pean firm or by the cre­ation of a new con­sor­tium that would over­turn Gazprom’s ad­van­tage.

Greek government of­fi­cials do not con­sider the former pos­si­bil­ity likely, though Elec­tricite de France, which con­trols Edi­son, as well as ENI, have al­lied with Gazprom in ma­jor projects in the past. They say that Gazprom is en­ter­ing the ten­der with a ma­jor of­fer of 900 mil­lion eu­ros for DEPA and has no rea­son to forge an al­liance. In­stead, the cre­ation of an­other strong pil­lar is more likely, in co­op­er­a­tion with the Vardi­noyian­nis-Myti­li­neos con­sor­tium, which has re­cently in­ten­si­fied its con­tacts with Euro­pean com­pa­nies.

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