Energy plant will be built

Oil refinery Hellenic Petroleum yesterday confirmed that plans to construct an electricity generation plant in Thessaloniki were still in place despite reports that Belgium’s Tractebel was about to pull out of the project. «The project is under way. We expect to announce the final makeup of the consortium and the contractor for the construction in the next 10 days,» Athanassios Karahalios, managing director, said. Hellenic Petroleum last year set up a joint venture with Belgian energy company Tractebel and local construction firm Aegek with the goal of building the country’s first privately owned power generation plant in Thessaloniki. Both the oil refiner and Tractebel hold equal 45 percent stakes in the venture. Recent press reports however suggested that the Belgian partner plans to quit the project due to frustrations over the difficulties of getting bank financing for the project. The natural gas-fired co-generation plant which has a capacity of 390 MW «is within the planned time framework and should be completed in early 2005,» Karahalios said. Hellenic Petroleum yesterday reported a 121 percent jump in 2002 consolidated pretax profits to 215.8 million euros based on International Accounting Standards. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization rose 37.6 percent to 294.4 million euros. Group revenues declined 5.3 percent to 3.81 billion euros. Results were boosted by strong petrochemical sales, said Alexandros Boulougouris, energy analyst at P&K Securities. The division lifted turnover by 47 percent, the only unit to see positive sales growth. A 70 percent improvement in refinery margins and higher sales in the first quarter of this year auger well for the company, said Karahalios. Hellenic Petroleum plans to propose a dividend of 15 cents per share, up 25 percent.