ECONOMY

DEPA could be sold by the end of the month, company official says

A deal to sell 35 percent of state gas company DEPA could be clinched this month if Spain’s Gas Natural backs down on its request for an agreement against regulatory changes, a DEPA source said yesterday. «The Spaniards are asking for a written commitment from the State (the main shareholder in DEPA) that the operating framework in the natural gas market will not change. This is very difficult,» the source told Reuters. «If Gas Natural backs down on this issue, then it is possible we could sign a deal in January.» Gas Natural was the only suitor to present a binding bid for the DEPA stake in late September. The source said the key problem holding up the sale was Gas Natural’s demand for a written assurance from the State that there will not be any major changes in pricing and supplies of natural gas. A senior Finance Ministry official said early last month that Gas Natural was willing to pay around 250 million euros ($311.8 million) for the 35 percent stake in DEPA. The State currently owns 65 percent of DEPA while oil refiner Hellenic Petroleum holds 35 percent. Power utility PPC has an option to buy 30 percent but the Finance Ministry has asked that it not be exercised until the sale has been completed. «The exercise of the option by PPC does not depend on a strategic investor for DEPA. PPC will buy the 30 percent when it thinks the move is expedient and to its advantage,» PPC’s chief financial officer, Grigoris Anastasiadis, told Reuters. «PPC will act based on the interests of its shareholders. The amount it is willing to pay will come from operating cash flow,» he added, without specifying a price tag. (Reuters)