Expected Gazprom bid for DEPA fails to transpire though Azeris confirm interest in DESFA

Greece’s ambitious privatization program suffered a heavy blow on Monday after an anticipated bid for Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) by Russian energy giant Gazprom failed to transpire, leaving officials scrambling to manage the fallout.

On the plus side, however, a bid by Azeri state energy firm Socar for DESFA, the gas transmission network operator, fueled hopes for Greece’s future bid to transport Caspian natural gas to Western Europe as part of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline.

According to sources, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had meetings with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and other cabinet members after news of the Russian withdrawal, which the Russian side attributed to unsatisfactory terms while Greek government sources pointed to objections by the European Commission, currently investigating Gazprom.

The failure of the Russians to come through was reportedly keenly felt by Samaras who had met three times in as many months with Gazprom’s chief executive, Alexey Miller.

Concerns were not only about potential damage to Greece’s image in the eyes of potential investors. The government must drum up from other sources some 800 million euros in funding that the sale of DEPA would have brought in. Officials close to Samaras indicated however that the funding target relating to DEPA could be put off until next year.

Deputy Energy Minister Asimakis Papageorgiou, who sought to play up the bid from Socar for DESFA, said a new tender would be issued for DEPA, though he did not say when. As regards Gazprom, he said the Russian firm had not informed Athens about its reasons for withdrawing.

Commenting later in the day, Gazprom executive Alexander Medvedev said the firm was still interested in opportunities in the Greek energy market despite its withdrawal from the DEPA sale, which he attributed to concerns about inadequate guarantees regarding the company’s financial state.

EC sources in Brussels told Kathimerini Monday that there was no truth in reports that Brussels had intervened to discourage Gazprom from bidding for DEPA.

“That’s not the way the Commission works; Gazprom obviously had its own business interests and is trying to shift the blame elsewhere,” a source said.