State about to concede 15-20 pct stake in HELPE via the bourse

State about to concede 15-20 pct stake in HELPE via the bourse

The government is waiting for the price of Hellenic Petroleum shares to rise before approving the launch of the process to sell part of the 35 percent stake it controls in the oil company through the stock market.

Sources tell Kathimerini that Goldman Sachs – the consultant in this privatization project along with National Bank – estimates that HELPE shares could reach up to 9 euros, which would secure more revenues for the state and allow it to hold onto a higher share than otherwise.

Market professionals counter that the real reason is that the government is facing pressure from leftist opposition rhetoric that it is willing to sell off state assets on the cheap, even though the SYRIZA government had agreed and proceeded to a sale at a far lower price, as the stock price of the time, below 7 euros, illustrates.

In Monday’s trading at Athinon Avenue HELPE closed at 8.32 euros.

The government also wants to avoid criticism that it is siding with the Latsis Group – owner of another major stake in HELPE – following the positive developments concerning the Elliniko project, which the group’s Lamda Development has undertaken. The Latsis side has avoided making any comments, pointing to the other major stakeholder, i.e. the state. Still, the issue of the HELPE bond showed that there is strong interest from investors in the company, which illustrates the timing is right.

The government will also have to define its position and agree with the country’s creditors before the assessment of the Greek program in December, as the privatization of HELPE – which the previous government had agreed would bring in revenues of at least 500 million euros – is one of the prior actions required by the creditors.

The state intends to concede through the stock market a stake of between 15 and 20 percent. The bourse option was chosen after the decision by the Latsis Group not to put its own stake up for sale through a tender. Consequently the state’s consultants researched the chances the state would have to find a buyer for its entire stake (35 percent). However, it was ascertained that no investor would have been willing to spend a huge amount of money just to be a minority stakeholder in the oil company.

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