Dead­line for DEPA, DESFA of­fers to­day sees Rus­sians in the lead

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY CHRYSSA LIAGGOU

Bind­ing of­fers by can­di­dates for the sale of gas com­pa­nies DEPA and DESFA are ex­pected to be sub­mit­ted to­day, trig­ger­ing ma­jor changes in the lo­cal en­ergy sec­tor.

The govern­ment has ex­pressed its op­ti­mism over a sat­is­fac­tory bid be­ing made by Rus­sia’s Gazprom for Pub­lic Gas Cor­po­ra­tion (DEPA), which was the aim of the Rus­sian en­ergy gi­ant’s strong­man Alexey Miller, who has been over­see­ing the process per­son­ally in the last three months.

Govern­ment sources say that Gazprom’s suc­cess in the ten­der will come with a “gen­er­ous” re­duc­tion in the rate of nat­u­ral gas sup­plied to Greece, an is­sue that Prime Min­is­ter An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras him­self has ne­go­ti­ated with Miller. The mar­ket in­side and out­side the coun­try has al­ready taken Gazprom’s suc­cess in the process for granted, while a bid by Greek com­pany M+M (of the Vardi­noyian­nis and Myti­li­neos groups) is seen as be­ing sub­mit­ted sim­ply to make up the num­bers.

How­ever, there are no guar­an­tees that Gazprom will also seek full con­trol of DEPA. “Greece sells, the Euro­pean Union de­cides,” a source from the state pri­va­ti­za­tion fund (TAIPED), which is re­spon­si­ble for the sale, said. A pos­si­ble veto by the Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion au­thor­i­ties of Gazprom’s en­try in DEPA is the Rus­sians’ big­gest worry, which is why they have asked for a change to the rules re­gard­ing the sub­mis­sion of a let­ter of guar­an­tee.

TAIPED will pro­claim the win­ning bid by the end of the month. Once the con­tract is signed it will be for­warded to Brus­sels to be ex­am­ined within the wider con­text of an EU in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Gazprom. Given the bu­reau­cracy in­volved in EU de­ci­sion-mak­ing and the Au­gust va­ca­tion pe­riod, a de­ci­sion is not ex­pected be­fore Novem­ber, which makes it un­likely that any rev­enues from the sale of DEPA will en­ter pub­lic cof­fers within 2013.

As far as gas trans­mis­sion net­work op­er­a­tor DESFA is con­cerned, the sit­u­a­tion is far less clear. Athens’s ef­forts to con­vince Az­eri com­pany So­car to ta­ble a com­pet­i­tive of­fer do not seem to have born fruit yet. As a re­sult the only gen­uine suitor is Rus­sia’s Sin­tez, which had tabled a non-bind­ing of­fer for the buy­out of both DEPA and DESFA, but then pulled out of the run­ning for DEPA. TAIPED ex­pects Sin­tez to bid for DESFA but its of­fer will fall short of the op­er­a­tor’s val­u­a­tion, in which case the ten­der may be pro­claimed bar­ren.

The sale of DEPA and DESFA will also af­fect that of Hel­lenic Pe­tro­leum, which holds a stake in both and is also up for pri­va­ti­za­tion. That and the planned sell-off of Pub­lic Power Cor­po­ra­tion will cre­ate a new land­scape in the sec­tor of en­ergy that is as yet un­charted.

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