Budget’s energy privatization revenues seen as unrealistic

The national budget’s privatization revenue forecasts for 2018, submitted to Greek Parliament yesterday, are best-case scenarios, if not theoretical or groundless, especially in the case of the energy sector, pundits overwhelmingly agree.

The plan includes revenues in 2018 from three highly complex privatizations, DEPA (Public Gas Corporation), ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) and PPC (main power utility). Not one of these privatizations is expected to be completed in 2018, even if launched very soon.

Even so, the budget plan anticipates 500 million euros from the sale of a 35 percent of ELPE, 250 million euros from the sale of DEPA’s 65 percent, and 100 million euros from the sale of PPC’s 17 percent.

Essentially, the inclusion of these privatizations in the 2018 budget amounts to nothing more than an attempt by the government to convince the country’s lenders that it is not obstructing procedures at TAIPED, the state privatization fund.

It is commonly known that the sale of PPC’s 17 percent, currently controlled by TAIPED, cannot proceed unless matters concerning the bailout-required sale of a package representing 40 percent of the power utility’s lignite capacity are cleared up.

The PPC lignite units to be placed for sale first need to be split from PPC so that the utility’s new market value may be calculated before the corporation’s 17 percent can be defined and placed for sale.

The sale procedure offering PPC lignite units is scheduled to begin in June. This, too, is seen as a best-case scenario, even if Genop, PPC’s union group, does not fight a battle against the lignite unit sale plan.

The budget plan’s DEPA and ELPE privatizations within 2018 are equally unrealistic. DEPA’s 65 percent cannot be privatized unless a bailout requirement calling for the gas utility’s reduced presence in the Greek gas market is first sorted out. At present DEPA is dominant in both the wholesale and retail natural gas markets.

The picture at ELPE will require at least the first half of 2018 to clear up. It will take consultants hired by TAIPED to assess strategic options concerning the sale of a 35 percent ELPE stake about six months to arrive to any conclusions.