TAIPED to open offer for DESFA today

Still smarting from the failure of the tender for Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) and preparing for a new proclamation, state privatization fund TAIPED will on Wednesday open the sole binding offer for gas transmission network operator DESFA from Azeri company Socar, in the hope that this will reverse the negative climate created by the absence of Russian suitor Gazprom from the DEPA process.

The fund will also open the valuation studies of two independent companies, on which the assessment of the Socar offer for DESFA will be based. Sources say, however, that the Azeris have offered 430 million euros for a 66 percent stake in the gas network operator, which is broken down into 31 percent owned by the state 35 percent by Hellenic Petroleum.

TAIPED officials are expected to start contacting foreign companies to test the waters ahead of a new tender for DEPA, while a well-informed source from Gazprom said yesterday that it is quite likely the Russian energy giant will make a bid for DEPA once a new tender is launched.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras expressed on Tuesday the certainty that the new tender will bear fruit, adding that the problems that emerged “were beyond us.”

Meanwhile in Brussels, European Commissioner Ollie Rehn said that any discussion on changing the targets of the Greek privatization program was premature, while EC spokesman Simon O’Connor called for the immediate resumption of the DEPA sell-off process “in order to minimize any consequences” to the program’s timetable. O’Connor added that the privatization of the natural gas monopoly is of major importance both due to the revenues it will fetch and to the restructuring of the energy market. Greece expects 2.6 billion euros from sell-offs this year.

The Commission also vehemently denied rumors that it had played a part in the failure of the DEPA tender by discouraging Gazprom from tabling a binding bid. The spokesman for Commission Vice President Joaquin Almunia, Antoine Colombani, told Kathimerini that “the privatization process in Greece is the responsibility of the Greek government and is under the control of TAIPED. The Commission had no involvement in the process on DEPA nor did it have any contacts with Gazprom on this particular issue.”