ECONOMY

DEPA to sell a 30pct stake by early next year

State-owned Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) is waiting for the government’s go-ahead for its plan to find a strategic investor. The call for a tender to sell a 30-percent stake in the natural gas provider has been drafted. DEPA Managing Director Aristides Vakirlis will meet with Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos next week to discuss the partial sell-off. A thorny side issue involves the participation of partly-privatized Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) in DEPA. Currently, ELPE holds a 35-percent stake in DEPA and is entitled, by law, to increase its stake up to 80 percent. ELPE would like to increase its stake, but the government appears to prefer that DEPA remain an independent company and ELPE’s stake grow no larger than its present one. On the other hand, the government favorably views an involvement by state electricity company Public Power Corporation (PPC) in DEPA. The search for a strategic investor in DEPA is expected to be over by the beginning of 2002. The gas market will be deregulated soon afterward. A few months ago, the pharmaceutical company Glaxo sited this as reason for refusing to supply wholesalers, who sought recourse with the Competition Commission. The Commission is about to reach a verdict which, according to sources, defends the freedom of intra-EU trade. The existing pricing system was judged as illegal, as there is no relevant legislative authorization. However, its annulment does not necessarily mean a return to the system that was applicable before 1997, which took into account the three lowest prices in Europe.