TAIPED blurs picture over Socar offer for DESFA

The future of DESFA remained unclear yesterday as state privatization fund TAIPED announced that the sole offer for a 66 percent stake in the gas transmission network operator by Azeri company Socar is “being examined in its details and concessions.”

TAIPED opened the binding offer yesterday and stated that in a future board meeting of shareholders, i.e. TAIPED and Hellenic Petroleum, a decision will be made on the bid, though it did not specify when the meeting may take place.

Sources explained that the “concessions” referred to by TAIPED link the price that Socar is offering with the financial state of the company (equities and debts). TAIPED advisers appear to believe that a different reading of those concessions could persuade the Azeri state firm to improve its offer considerably.

Kathimerini has been told that the offer ranges between 390-430 million euros for the stake at DESFA. The lower end of that is very close to the value of the 66 percent stake should the valuation of the whole of the company at 600 million euros be confirmed.

The sale of DESFA will also determine whether the privatization process for Hellenic Petroleum will be unblocked, with the government eager to speed it up after the failure of the first tender for Public Gas Corporation (DEPA).

Energy market professionals consider it likely that the outcome of the tender for DESFA will only be published after an announcement by Azerbaijan on its decision about the pipeline to carry natural gas to Western Europe. The final decision on whether Baku will choose Nabucco or the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which Greece is backing, will be made on June 28.

There should be a good indication of the Azeris’ intentions by June 23, when the government is expected to proceed to either awarding the tender to Socar or to pronounce it a failure. Such estimates are based on the fact that Athens would like to reverse the negative climate from the unfortunate conclusion of the DEPA tender and has connected the submission of Socar’s binding offer for DESFA with TAP and the boost to the country’s geopolitical role it is expected to give.