ECONOMY

Sintez promises more funds if it lands DEPA

Russian energy company Sintez is promising investments of 3 billion euros over the next five years in the two Greek gas companies that are up for privatization if it lands the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) and the gas transmission network operator (DESFA) in this spring’s tender.

There have also been Russian media reports about investments of Russian capital in other sectors in Greece, including transport and tourism, that will depend on the outcome of the bid for DEPA and DESFA.

The chief executive officer of the Sintez group, Andrey Korolev, told The Moscow Times this week that his company is willing to invest 3 billion euros in DEPA and DESFA in the next five years if it is the winning candidate in the privatization process in Greece. He added that the group’s moves are entirely independent of Gazprom and Sintez is eager to enter the Greek energy sector.

“Greece may become a European hub for natural gas deriving from the Mediterranean region, from North Africa, the Arab states and the Caspian Sea,” Korolev stated. He also noted that his company has made no agreements with Gazprom, but conceded that he would examine an attractive proposal by the Russian gas giant if Sintez acquires DEPA and DESFA.

Some analysts suggest that Gazprom and Sintez might be moving in tandem. Gazprom is keen to maintain its presence in the Greek market, where it currently controls 80 percent of gas imports. It also knew from the outset that it would face opposition in bidding for DEPA, mainly from the European Commission. There is speculation that Sintez is something of a Gazprom proxy.

Sintez has reportedly offered 1.9 billion euros for both Greek gas companies on the condition that it proceeds to exclusive talks with the Greek authorities and the state privatization fund (TAIPED). Nevertheless, the firm appeared to have distanced itself from that demand when the fund asked for a letter of guarantee for exclusive talks to begin.

Eventually the Russian firm returned to the tender process, while acknowledging that the Greek side is trying to avoid Russian offers but at the same time has not received any Western interest. The Sintez CEO said that many Greek officials “have now admitted they are under political pressure not to accept the Russian control in these two assets.”