ECONOMY

PPC slow to react to winter crisis

 year after its successful conversion to societe anonyme status, electricity company Public Power Corporation (PPC) is still very much a lumbering state monolith unable to react quickly and effectively to crises, a fact highlighted by last week’s unprecedented winter blitz which left hundreds of homes around the country without electricity. Fifteen to 20 villages in Evia are still without electricity, while eight to 10 villages near Hania on the island of Crete and some 150 houses in Attica share the same problem, PPC Managing Director Stergios Nezis told a press conference yesterday. Record snowstorms over the weekend, among the worst since 1963, cut off hundreds of homes, leaving them without electricity and water. The government declared a state of emergency in Attica, the neighboring provinces of Boeotia and Evia and the areas of Rethymnon and Hania on Crete. Nezis said that over the three-day period from January 4 to 6, PPC received a total of 1,205 reports of snowstorm-inflicted damage from customers in Attica. This compared with an average of 45 cases on any normal day. He said that teams of PPC technicians had been and are working around the clock to resupply electricity to affected homes. PPC Chairman Dimitris Papoulias said the company has showed «great success in responding to the unprecedented weather conditions,» countering claims of PPC inefficiency and procrastination from those left stranded without electricity. Nezis said the company’s record in responding to stoppages caused by damage was comparatively better than that of a number of major countries in 2000. The frequency of stoppages was fewer than in France and Canada, while the duration of such events was shorter than in the USA and Italy. Reviewing PPC’s record last year, after its conversion to societe anonyme status which forced the company to function in accordance with market dictates, Papoulias said PPC exceeded targets outlined in the 2001 business plan. «Profits in 2001 are expected to rise above the original forecast of 60 billion drachmas,» he said. PPC also improved its cash flow by a substantial margin. Figures will be released in early March. The company lowered its debt to 1,650 billion drachmas at the end of 2001 from 1,800 billion drachmas at the start of the year. The PPC head said the goal is a debt to capital ratio of 1:1 by 2005. Papoulias however refused to comment on press speculation of a strategic investor for PPC and the sale of yet another tranche of PPC equity by the State this year. The company went public last month, listing 15-16 percent of its stock on the Athens and London stock exchanges.