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Deadline for DEPA, DESFA offers sees Russians in the lead

By Chryssa Liaggou

Binding offers by candidates for the sale of gas companies DEPA and DESFA are expected to be submitted on Monday, 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.

ekathimerini.com , Sunday June 9, 2013 (18:24)  
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