DEPA to go public

State-controlled gas utility DEPA is expected to follow in the footsteps of recently listed Public Power Corporation (PPC) by floating 15 percent of its equity next year even as it continues searching for a strategic investor. The government’s new plans for DEPA were disclosed by Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos yesterday. Visiting the gas company yesterday, the minister urged the DEPA management to speed up the restructuring program, enabling the company to make a market debut on the best possible terms. The government, which holds a 65-percent stake in DEPA, had long insisted on finding a strategic partner for the gas company. In recent weeks, it has floated the idea of PPC taking a 25 to 30 percent share in the gas company, quashing any hopes oil refinery Hellenic Petroleum might have of increasing its 35-percent holding in DEPA. Development Ministry spokesman Lazaros Hatzinakos told Kathimerini English Edition that DEPA is likely to offload 15 percent of its equity on the Athens Stock Exchange next year. DEPA could follow in the footsteps of PPC by listing at least 15 percent of its shares. At the same time, it will continue to look for a strategic investor, he said. Hatzinakos said that DEPA’s smaller capitalization compared with PPC would facilitate both moves. The company’s share capital at the end of last year came up to 322 billion drachmas. Both DEPA and PPC are expected to form the cornerstone of the government’s efforts to establish Greece as the energy hub for the Balkans. Tsochadzopoulos said that DEPA’s projected role will be facilitated by the European Union’s enlargement process which, in turn, will offer access to natural-gas-producing countries in central Asia such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Iran. Greece currently gets the bulk of its gas supplies from Russia and to a lesser degree from Algeria. The minister said that DEPA would need to link up with gas production and transport networks in Europe if it wants to play a leading role in the liberalized gas market. The Greek natural gas market is due to be fully deregulated in 2006.