Azeris heeded by Commission on developing DESFA deal

Last week’s news of the European Commission’s approval of a 66% transfer of DESFA, Greece’s Natural Gas Transmission System Operator, to Azeri energy firm SOCAR has brought about smiles at both the Greek government as it awaits the finalization of its first major privatization, as well as ELPE, DESFA’s main shareholder.

ELPE, which controls slightly over half the 66% DESFA stake that SOCAR is expected to acquire, is expecting to receive about 212 million euro for its part in the prospective deal.

The only remaining issue, as was highlighted in a six-page report by the Directorate-General for Competition and the Directorate-General for Energy, concerns a proposal for RAE, Greece’s Regulatory Authority for Energy, to maintain the ability to restrict SOCAR’s voting rights in the event that any violations of EU law are detected.

One significant revision to the deal’s conditions, requested by the Azeris and accepted by the European Commission, concerns recognition in Brusssels of the specific voting-rights term as it currently stands. The Azeri side appealed for this condition’s implementation as protection against any political change in Greece that could prompt changes and complications.

The European Commission’s response to this Azeri request is being viewed as a constructive step in the deal’s process as SOCAR’s observations are being taken into consideration by the EU executive body.

It is anticipated that the deal, to strive for a balance that will satisfy the buyer while also ensuring strict compliance to EU law on energy, will have been finalized by the end of September, when RAE forwards its finalized draft to the European Commissions for appraisal.