Gov’t to tread cau­tiously af­ter DEPA fail­ure

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY CHRYSSA LIAGGOU Kathimerini

Fol­low­ing the fail­ure of the Pub­lic Gas Cor­po­ra­tion (DEPA) ten­der and hop­ing to save face in that for gas trans­mis­sion net­work op­er­a­tor DESFA, the govern­ment is ac­cel­er­at­ing the pri­va­ti­za­tions pro­gram, giv­ing pri­or­ity to projects such as the Pi­raeus Port Au­thor­ity (OLP), in a bid to re­duce the short­fall ex­pected in rev­enues and fend off pres­sure from its cred­i­tors to in­tro­duce more mea­sures.

The com­ing week will be cru­cial for de­vel­op­ments on the sell-off front as it should see de­fin­i­tive de­ci­sions re­gard­ing the out­come of the DESFA ten­der. The govern­ment ex­pects to get a pos­i­tive re­sult to edge closer to the tar­get for rev­enues of 1.6 bil­lion eu­ros from pri­va­ti­za­tions this year and re­verse the neg­a­tive pic­ture cre­ated from the lack of bid­ders for DEPA.

From the state­ment is­sued by state pri­va­ti­za­tion fund TAIPED on Wed­nes­day af­ter the sole bind­ing of­fer from Az­eri state en­ergy firm So­car, it emerges that award­ing the 66 per­cent stake in DESFA to the only bid­der will de­pend on whether the Az­eris raise their of­fer. TAIPED stopped short of re­veal­ing the price of­fered, but it is said to range be­tween 390 and 430 mil­lion eu­ros. A meet­ing of the two share­hold­ers, TAIPED and Hel­lenic Pe­tro­leum, will de­cide on the of­fer “that is be­ing ex­am­ined on its de­tails and con­ces­sion,” said TAIPED.

af­ter the sole bind­ing of­fer made by Az­eri state en­ergy firm So­car, it emerges that award­ing the 66 per­cent stake in DESFA to the only bid­der will de­pend on whether the Az­eris raise their of­fer.

The fund is hop­ing to con­vince So­car to raise its bid – some­thing that will be seen next week – al­though mar­ket sources ex­pect the govern­ment to an­nounce its de­ci­sion af­ter the Az­eri choice of a nat­u­ral gas pipe­line to Western Europe is made known.

Re­gard­less of the DESFA ten­der’s out­come, the need to speed up the sell-off pro­gram and quickly restart the DEPA ten­der was clearly ex­pressed by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion through spokesman Si­mon O’Con­nor this week. He asked for “any con­se­quences [on the Greek pro­gram’s timetable] to be min­i­mized” as Brus­sels is wor­ried about the open­ing of a fund­ing gap that could deepen its rift with the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund as the lat­ter would ap­ply more pres- sure for an­other Greek debt re­struc­tur­ing.

In view of all this, TAIPED is putting projects such as port pri­va­ti­za­tion at the fore­front, start­ing with OLP, be­cause they can move ahead faster. In ad­di­tion to that, along­side the re­draft­ing of plans for the DEPA ten­der, it is ex­am­in­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of lend­ing pri­or­ity to a fur­ther pri­va­ti­za­tion of Hel­lenic Pe­tro­leum and ac­cel­er­at­ing the pro­ce­dure for the sale of Pub­lic Power Cor­po­ra­tion’s grid op­er­a­tor, ADMIE.

Re­gard­ing the new ten­der for DEPA, TAIPED has de­cided to make some care­ful plan­ning be­fore its procla­ma­tion so as to avoid the weak points that led to the fail­ure of the first one. The dead­lock in the ten­der was not due to the un­ex­pected ab­sten­tion by Rus­sian en­ergy gi­ant Gazprom, but to the fact that it failed to at­tract any other in­vestors.

The govern­ment may dis­miss the rea­sons Gazprom has cited to stay away from fil­ing a bind­ing of­fer, re­fer­ring to debts and the fu­ture fi­nan­cial state of the com­pany as “mere pre­texts,” but re­spon­si­ble govern­ment of­fi­cials know very well that had th­ese is­sues gone away, the sit­u­a­tion in the ten­der would have been to­tally dif­fer­ent.

As a re­sult of that, the new ten­der will only be an­nounced af­ter the pack­age of mea­sures con­cern­ing the elec­tric­ity mar­ket’s re­struc­tur­ing is con­cluded, as this is the source of the debts to DEPA that Gazprom re­ferred to.

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