Bourse level to determine next energy sector privatizations

At least two of the country’s most significant energy sector privatizations currently being planned, those of ELPE, or Hellenic Petroleum, and DEPA, the Public Gas Company, are expected to be carried out through the bourse, according to Greek government plans.

However, for the time being, subdued market conditions, both at the Athens Stock Exchange and internationally, are acting as a deterrent. If conditions have improved by later this year, or around November, then the Greek government can be expected to press ahead with the aim of completing its privatizations through the bourse within 2015.

All appears to be clear-cut at ELPE, as shareholders have already agreed to jointly offer the corporation’s new strategic investor the state’s 35.48% stake in the firm, as well as a package of shares held by main shareholder Paneuropean (40.98%). Active interest has already been expressed by Russian, Arabic, and Asian firms. However, the currently unfavorable conditions on the Athens bourse, as well as Europe’s refining sector, especially in the Mediterranean region, have held back any further progress.

Besides, refining margins are currently hovering at historical lows, leading to numerous losses, as well as closures, in the sector. However, the medium-term outlook for market players such as ELPE, which have made investments and upgraded their facilities, is expected to be favorable. In any case, current share price levels are low and, under no circumstances, justify any launch of sale procedures. As things currently stand, the sale of ELPE shares through the bourse will not be able to be carried out any sooner than 2015.

In the case of DEPA, it is not just market conditions that will need to be considered. An additional factor here is the forthcoming revisions to the natural gas market, expected from September onwards. As requested by Greece’s creditor representatives, or troika, monopolies held by natural gas suppliers will be broken up, while control of the distribution network will be transferred to another firm. Draft legislation will enter Parliament in September. From that point on, the market’s shape will determine whether company shares will be offered through the bourse, or whether an alternate privatization course will be sought.

As for PPC, the Public Power Corporation, a prospective sale of a 17% stake in the company through the bourse will not take place until 2016. It needs to be preceded by the corporation’s 30% part-privatization via a break-away subsidiary that is expected to start taking shape in the coming months.