Socar enters final stage of DESFA sale

The sale of Greece’s natural gas transmission network operator (DESFA) entered its final stage on Tuesday after an extraordinary general meeting of main stakeholder Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) approved the offer by Azeri state energy company Socar.

ELPE controls just over half of the 66 percent stake in DESFA that Socar is acquiring and expects to cash in some 212.1 million euros for the 35 percent stake it is selling. The other 31 percent stake to be sold belongs to the state.

That was the final obstacle the Azeris had to overcome before taking action. A high-level delegation from Socar arrived in Athens on Tuesday to pave the way for the undertaking of the DESFA management.

In this first visit by the Azeris to Athens following the completion of the tender last June, the Socar officials will visit the DESFA installations on the island of Revythousa and at Patima, near Elefsina in western Attica. They will also meet with the administrations of DESFA and the state privatization fund (TAIPED) as well as with Deputy Minister for Energy, Asimakis Papageorgiou.

The Azeris will additionally meet with the board of the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) to discuss the institutional issues pending regarding the usage rates of the natural gas transmission network. Socar and RAE have already agreed on a memorandum of regulatory issues, which the Azeri company had set as a condition for the submission of an improved offer of 400 million euros and the completion of the sale.

TAIPED officials estimate that the ratification of the DESFA stake’s sale to Socar will take about four to five months, which means it will likely be completed in the first quarter of 2014. Now that ELPE has accepted the Socar offer, the deal will be submitted for approval to the State Audit Council and then to RAE. By October it will also have been forwarded to the European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition and the European energy regulator, ACER. TAIPED officials warn that the monitoring by the European authorities will be particularly detailed and in-depth, given that it will be the first time that a non-European Union company will undertake the role of the operator of the network in an EU country.

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