Russians interested in local energy

After the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA), which Gazprom and two other major Russian companies have expressed an interest in, Gazprom?s oil-producing arm is now eyeing the state?s stake in Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE).

OAO Gazprom Neft, a subsidiary of Russia?s natural gas monopoly, is considering a bid for Greece?s biggest refiner, CEO Alexander Dyukov said on Friday in Moscow, according to international news agencies.

?We are looking into the possibility of acquiring this asset. There are two decent plants with comparatively high capacity and quite high refining depth,? said Dyukov. The Saint Petersburg-based company, Russia?s fifth-biggest crude oil producer, has not reached a decision on whether to bid for the refinery, he added.

Russia is aiming at a dynamic presence in the Greek energy market by making the most of opportunities stemming from the privatization of local enterprises in a bid to strengthen its position on the new energy map emerging in the Eastern Mediterranean.

There had been some Russian interest back in 2005, too, during the first effort to privatize Hellenic Petroleum, as Lukoil had submitted a joint bid with the Latsis Group, while a year later the same company had apparently reached the verge of completing a deal to enter the share capital of the other major Greek refiner, Motor Oil, with a 20 percent stake. Neither effort bore fruit in the end.

Gazprom?s interest in ELPE is a sign of the battle to follow for the privatization of Greece?s biggest refiner. That battle will likely have geopolitical elements as well, as in the tender for DEPA and gas grid operator DESFA.

The discovery of significant hydrocarbon reserves in the region is creating added value for Greek enterprises in the energy sector that are up for privatization, and this is expected to be reflected in the financial bids.

There have been 17 bids submitted for DEPA and DESFA from firms including Italy?s ENI, French-Italian Edison, Spanish Gas Natural and of course Gazprom.