ECONOMY

Expanding PPC looks for a strategic investor

A week after its flotation on the Athens Stock Exchange, electricity utility Public Power Corporation (PPC) is ready to take on a strategic investor as well as expand into new sectors, the economy and finance and development ministers told PPC unionists yesterday. Addressing a seminar organised by PPC trade union GENOP-DEH yesterday, the two ministers said that the electricity company will continue to play a major role in the deregulated energy market even as privately-owned power companies slowly made inroads. Referring to the prospects of a deregulated pan-European energy market, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said that PPC will soon need to look for a strategic ally to help it enhance its position. PPC went public last week. Its market debut was less than optimistic as its shares took a pounding on the first two days of trading. Not only is the power company ready to hook up with an ally, it plans to venture into construction and real estate, Christodoulakis said. PPC has the expertise [for these activities] garnered from the construction of hydroelectric projects, the minister stressed. He said the company also aims to acquire a 25-30-percent stake in gas company DEPA under the State’s privatization program. Oil refiner Hellenic Petroleum currently holds a 35-percent share but has expressed its wish to increase its presence. The State has a controlling 65-percent stake in DEPA. In the meantime, PPC is not unduly concerned over the new entrants to the power generation market. PPC will seek to play a dynamic role in the deregulated energy market, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said, noting that the competitors will liven up the competition. The minister’s optimism is well-founded. While an overwhelming number of companies applied for power-generation permits following the partial deregulation of the electricity market on February 19, enthusiasm has since waned as they ran into a series of problems, regulatory and bureaucratic. Tsochadzopoulos said that PPC needed to link up to the energy networks in Eurasia as part of a strategy of making Greece the power hub for the region. It could even act as a power exchange for the area. Verelis said the government will be subsidizing air travel for large families, needy students, farmers and conscripts among others after receiving the green light from Brussels.