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Greece irons out ‘technical details’ of DEPA sale

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The privatisation tender for Greek Public Gas Corporation DEPA and gas network operator DESFA has been postponed “for technical reasons” and will be held within the last 10 days of May “to ensure the integrity of the project,” a media representative of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (TAIPED), told New Europe on 10 May.

“Essentially, we are talking 10 days later,” Maria Tsinaridou said. “The deadline has been moved to the last 10 days of May.” After the binding offers are made the selection will be made in the immediate future but definitely within 2013, she added.

The deadline has been delayed before but Tsinaridou said “there won’t be another [postponement]. There are technical reasons. The project has a big national significance and essentially it is for technical reasons to assure the integrity of the process,” she said.

Russia’s Gazprom and Sintez and Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR are three of the five contenders for DEPA.

In March, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller, in his meeting with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, reportedly raised the issue of what it deems as unfavourable terms that TAIPED has set in the tender proclamation.

Gazprom is said to have specifically cited the risk the company runs of losing the €180-million guarantee that comes with its bid if the European competition authorities decide against ratifying its winning the tender or set any limitations that would render it a loss-making venture for the Russian company.

Tsinaridou told New Europe that Gazprom’s concerns have been addressed. “Overall, as far as I know, all the side issues have been cleared with Gazprom,” she said.

SOCAR has also been closely monitoring DEPA’s privatisation since the Azerbaijani is interested in non-Russian transportation routes to Europe. By buying DEPA/DESFA, SOCAR can also automatically get a share in the Interconnector-Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) as DEPA has stakes in the project and push the project to finalise the construction.

Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos paid a two-day official visit to Azerbaijan on 29-30 April where he reiterated Athens’ interest in expanding energy co-operation with Azerbaijan, specifically through the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), a project for a dedicated pipeline that would carry Azerbaijan’s natural gas to European markets via Greece, Albania and Italy – also supplying Southeast Europe and the Balkans through interconnectors. Avramopoulos also said Athens welcomes SOCAR’s desire to take part in the privatisation. He said Greece is open for investments and invites Azerbaijani investors to the country.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has expressed concerns about unbundling and control of energy networks but Tsinaridou said the process is progressing normally.

A representative at the office of Greece’s Deputy Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change (YPEKA) told New Europe on 10 May that Asimakis Papageorgiou and the Greek government have said that all the privatisation processes – not only DEPA – will take place according to EU rules since Greece is a member state. “There are no preferences – only best offers in the framework of European and national legislation,” she said. “Fortunately, we are part of Europe. It was Europe Day yesterday [9 May] and we have our national legislation that is always to European directives and our European rights and obligations.”

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Co-founder / Director of Energy & Climate Policy and Security at NE Global Media

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