ECONOMY

Greek natural gas firm’s profit falls 44 percent in 2012

Greek natural gas distributor DEPA, due to be privatised this year, posted a 44 percent drop in annual profit due to a slide in demand and a one-off charge to settle disputes with its biggest client, according to preliminary figures.

DEPA, which is 65 percent state-owned, reported net income of 106.3 million euros for 2012, according to a financial statement published by minority shareholder Hellenic Petroleum on Wednesday. It is not listed and will not officially publish annual results until later this year.

Russian energy giant Gazprom, DEPA’s biggest natural gas provider, is one of five bidders in a race to buy the company, which sells gas to local electricity producers and others.

Greece’s debt woes and an excessively generous subsidy system for solar power producers have caused a liquidity crisis in the electricity market, which has hurt DEPA.

Natural gas users, including power generators which account for about two-thirds of its sales, owe the company about 450 million euros in arrears, according to a DEPA official who declined to be named. DEPA had to take an emergency loan last year to pay for natural gas supplies from Gazprom.

Greece’s electricity generation from natural-gas fired plants dropped by 4.8 percent in 2012, causing overall gas consumption to drop by about 3 percent to 4.172 billion cubic metres (bcm).

A settlement that DEPA struck in September with state-run electricity producer PPC, its biggest client, weighed on results. DEPA agreed to pay PPC 94 million euros as part of a deal to settle the two companies’ outstanding disputes and renew their natural gas supply contract for a further eight years.

Other bidders in the race to buy DEPA are Russia’s Sintez, Azeri state-owned gas firm SOCAR and two Greek consortia, M&M GasCo-Mytilineos-Motor Oil, and PPF and GEK TERNA

Binding bids for the company are to be submitted to Greece’s privatisation agency HRADF by April 12.

[Reuters]