ECONOMY

Sugar short-list of nine

Greece’s largest sugar producer, Hellenic Sugar Industries (EBZ), short-listed nine companies for a tender to convert sugar plants into bioethanol plants, it said yesterday. EBZ is seeking to convert two of its five plants to produce bioethanol in an effort to help offset the loss of EU subsidies on sugar production. Motor Oil Hellas, Greece’s second-largest refiner, a joint venture between German biofuel plant builder Lurgi and Greek builder J&P-Avax, Turkey’s Tarkim, Greek Damco Energy, and RF Energy, were chosen to proceed to the next round. Belgian-Greek group Spiliopoulos-Alco, the UK’s Bioethanol Overseas, US Cal West-Pacific Ethanol, and German-Greek joint venture Swissmarine-Solaris-Verbio were also chosen, EBZ said in a statement on its website. The European Commission has cut sugar prices and quotas in a major policy overhaul and EBZ has said this makes the continued operation of its five plants untenable. EBZ has said it wants to convert its Larissa and Xanthi sugar plants in central and northern Greece into bioethanol production plants, which will be used primarily as renewable fuel for transport. Total capacity of each plant is estimated at about 120,000 tons of bioethanol a year, while the final capacity will be determined in cooperation with the new strategic investor. EBZ said it was seeking Greek or foreign investors with proven experience in the energy sector and sufficient funds to participate in the equity of the new company – through a share capital increase – as well as in its management. The strategic investor will also assist in the selection of new technology, advise on the best use of existing facilities and train existing staff. EBZ will provide the land and part of the existing fixed assets and equipment of the plants, it said. The European Union decided in 2005 to cut minimum support prices for sugar by 36 percent through 2010, a move which could sound the death knell for Greece’s uncompetitive sugar industry. Greece’s ATEbank has an 82 percent stake in EBZ, which operates five plants in Greece and owns two more in Serbia. (Reuters)