ECONOMY

Petroleum deal in doubt?

Development Ministry officials have been expressing doubts over whether the sale of a 23.17 percent stake in state-controlled Hellenic Petroleum to a Russian-Greek consortium will finally go through. With the consortium partners, Lukoil, Russia’s biggest oil firm, and Greece’s Petrola, a Latsis Group company, expected to submit their final offer by January 10, ministry officials say that a signature to close the deal would be a «nice surprise» but added that they saw an impasse and ultimate failure as the likeliest outcome. Since Petrola is keen to close the deal, the only reason for failure would be if Lukoil were to back off. Development Ministry officials who claim this is likely say Lukoil will review its international strategy in the face of an increasingly likely US intervention in Iraq. There are no indications from Lukoil on a change of strategy, although insiders interpret the fact that the consortium had asked, and got, an additional month to submit its proposal, as a sign of disagreements between the partners. Officially, the Development Ministry is keen to conclude the deal. However, the most vocal opponents of the deal, Hellenic Petroleum unionists, are members of the ruling Socialists and were once seen as supporters of Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos, who used to represent hard-line Socialist opposition to PM Costas Simitis’s reformism.