PPC has Balkan designs

The Public Power Corporation (PPC) is considering buying power distribution utilities in Bulgaria as part of its Balkan expansion plan, its chief financial officer (CFO) told Reuters yesterday. Bulgaria offered 67 percent stakes in its seven electricity distribution utilities in late October as part of efforts to liberalize the energy market and boost its efficiency. «We are interested in all the countries in the area,» CFO Grigoris Anastasiadis told Reuters in a telephone interview. «Now it’s Bulgaria that is selling some assets. If there is an interesting investment option, we will make a move.» The Bulgarian government has grouped the utilities in three packages, to be sold through two-stage public tenders. Under the plan, a bidder can acquire only one of the three packages, each of which has annual electricity sales of about 8 billion kilowatt hours. Italian energy group Enel has said it will bid, while Russia’s national power utility UES and the Czech Republic’s state-run CEZ are also interested. Anastasiadis said that after PPC’s successful foray into telecommunications, with its subsidiary Tellas taking almost 6 percent of the domestic fixed-line market in 10 months of operation, PPC was thinking of expanding into the natural gas market. PPC has an option to buy 30 percent in Greek gas distributor DEPA once negotiations over the latter’s privatization are concluded with Spain’s Gas Natural, which has put in a binding offer for a 35 percent stake. «We are talking to the government over the terms set for our exercising the option for the 30 percent of DEPA,» Anastasiadis said, «We have no time limits for exercising the option, and neither is there a term that connects the option with the strategic investor,» he added. Anastasiadis also said that the firm expected satisfactory figures when it announces nine-month results toward the end of the month. (Reuters)