BUSINESS

Lenders push Greece to sell up to 40 percent of state-controlled power units

ANGELIKI KOUTANTOU

TAGS: Energy, Politics, Privatizations

A Greek minister on Monday accused international lenders of reneging on a 2015 bailout deal by trying to force a fire-sale of its main electricity utility PPC to serve "domestic and foreign business interests."

Under terms of a 2015 bailout deal for Greece worth up to 86 billion euros, Public Power Corp. (PPC) is obliged to cut its dominance in the Greek market to below 50 percent by 2020.

Although it is not clearly specified in the deal, lenders want Greece to sell some of PPC's assets. PPC, which is 51 percent owned by the state, now controls about 90 percent of the country's retail electricity market and 60 percent of its wholesale market.

Greece last year launched power auctions to private operators as a temporary mechanism and has proposed that PPC team up with private companies to help achieve this target. But lenders doubt the effectiveness of the measure.

"What they want is that power production infrastructure of up to 40 percent - PPC's coal-fired production- is sold. This is what they want right know, which is beyond the (2015) deal," Interior Minister Panos Skourletis, a former energy minister, told Greek state television.

Skourletis on Monday accused the lenders pressing the country to sell-off PPC units at a very low price to serve European and domestic competitors.

"It is an assault which has set its sights on PPC's assets to pass it on to specific European and domestic business interests at a humiliating price," Skourletis said in an Op-Ed penned for the Efimerida Ton Syntakton daily.

Differences among Athens, the EU and the IMF over how PPC will give up a big part of its shares, along with labor and fiscal issues have delayed a crucial bailout review which will unlock fresh loans for cash-strapped Greece.

Some members of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's leftist ruling coalition and PPC's power unions have strongly resisted the sale of PPC's coal-fired units.

Skourletis had fought hard to keep power grid operator ADMIE, fully-controlled by PPC, under state control, instead of selling a 66 percent stake in the grid. PPC is expected to conclude ADMIE's spin-off later this year.

He also objected strongly the sale of a 17 percent stake in PPC, part of the country's privatization scheme agreed with its lenders.

PPC, the second-largest producer of coal-fired electricity in the European Union, had fixed assets of 17.3 billion euros in 2015, according to its latest annual report.

Along with power units across the country, it also owns coal mines and the country's power distribution networks to households, small and medium-sized companies and industries.

[Reuters]

 

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