Appeal against DEPA tender

The tender for the privatization of Greece?s Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) has taken an unexpected twist as one of the three companies eliminated from the second phase of the process has appealed the decision by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (TAIPED).

Fund Energy, an investment vehicle founded by former Russian Energy Minister and member of OAO Gazprom?s board of directors Igor Yusufov, launched the appeal asking for the tender to be annulled or to have the decision for its ?illegal and unjustified? elimination revoked, it says.

A statement issued on Wednesday by the lawyers authorized to represent the company in Athens read that Fund Energy believes that up until today there has been a lack of transparency in the tender process and therefore a deficit in the protection of public interest. It further asks for its assessment on equal terms with its rival candidates bidding for the state?s stake in DEPA.

It also suggested it was legitimately and in a timely manner that it tabled the letters of guarantee from Credit Suisse and Hyposwiss banks, amounting to a total of 400 million euros, ?which illustrate its financial strength as it expresses its determination to proceed to long-term investments in Greece with a strategic corporate significance.?

The news has created some embarrassment in the market. It served to revive the early rumors that the fund?s bid was Gazprom?s plan B to enter DEPA in case it was left out of the tender?s latter stages due to being the main procurer of the Greek gas utility. Others believe the appeal constitutes the first move by Russia in its strategy to enter the energy sector in Greece and the Southeastern Mediterranean. The role of Fund Energy in this context has already drawn the attention of the European Commission.

Yusufov is understood to form part of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin?s inner circle, and has already been active in Cyprus.