ECONOMY

PPC asks for compensation

Public Power Corporation (PPC) CEO Dimitris Maniatakis on Saturday called on the state, PPC’s major shareholder, to compensate it for the losses it incurred because of the increase in fuel prices. «You will ask me, ‘Isn’t there a way to tackle the increase in spending on energy?’ My answer is this: A few days ago, the Spanish government decided to spend 3.75 billion to cover the great additional costs incurred by electricity companies due to the higher increase in energy costs relative to increases in electricity tariffs,» Maniatakis said in a speech at the annual convention of PPC’s union GENOP. «This amount will be paid over the next four years. In this way, Spain’s electricity firms become viable and their international competitiveness is enhanced, allowing them to seek expansion into foreign markets, even Greece,» he added. Maniatakis’s indirect demand follows the government’s repeated refusal to allow PPC to raise its electricity tariffs to reflect the additional costs in energy. With the price of oil currently in a sharp drop, a sharp tariff increase is less likely than ever. PPC spending on oil and natural gas rose from -547 million in the first three quarters of 2004 to -921 million during the same period in 2006, a rise of nearly 68 percent, Maniatakis said. Earlier during his speech, Maniatakis rejected charges that he intends to follow in PPC the management practices of OTE Chairman and CEO Panayis Vourloumis. Like Vourloumis, Maniatakis had called for better employee performance in a speech last Thursday and had called for PPC to be able to determine itself how many people to hire and when. «Many people with an inflamed imagination rushed to claim that I follow the ‘Vourloumis/OTE model,’ that I want layoffs and a radical change in employment relations. They projected their personal opinions and fantasies; my speech was about PPC’s modernization and financial autonomy and the strengthening of the enterprise’s competitiveness in Greece and abroad,» Maniatakis said. He specifically rejected the idea that he wanted to emulate OTE’s costly offering of incentives toward early retirement. «In the case of OTE, there may have been a significant excess of personnel, I am in no position to judge. In the case of PPC, I have publicly said that ‘massive voluntary retirements are not a cure’ [because this way] the company will be drained of experienced, specialized personnel,» Maniatakis said. On the contrary, he added, there is a significant lack of technically proficient personnel and that PPC employees are often obliged to put in «exhausting extra work» to cover the company’s needs. PPC has announced that it is going to hire an additional 2,035 people. «These hirings will be on the basis of merit and totally transparent. PPC is looking for competent, specialized young people who meet its needs and can share its growth vision,» Maniatakis said. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, who also attended the union’s convention, promised a faster deregulation of the energy sector, while Christos Papoutsis, the opposition Socialists’ spokesman and a former European energy commissioner, criticized the government over delays in deregulation. Although Greece’s energy sector has been officially deregulated since 2001, PPC retains a monopoly in power distribution. Provision of natural gas for heating and cooking is still in its early stages and energy production by private companies is still limited to a few renewable energy sources, mostly from wind power generators. Last week, the European Commission announced its intention to push for the faster breakup of national power monopolies in order to ensure greater diversity in energy sources as well as security of supplies. Maniatakis told his audience that PPC «must find new sources of income from renewable energy sources,» further develop its telecommunications subsidiary Tellas and make better commercial use of its extensive property holdings. He added that the new, more competitive environment demanded a retraining of personnel to acquire new skill, greater care of customers, greater mobility of personnel within the company, an end to temporary reassignments of PPC personnel into other state agencies and «a continuous effort to reduce all those expenses that do not contribute to the creation of added value for the company.»