China’s interest in local energy sector, ubiquitous, a strategic choice

The Chinese factor in Greek energy sector developments has gained ground over the past few days. Chinese interests are at play, both directly and indirectly, as part of the country’s strategic energy interest here.

Zhang Chun, president of CMEC (China Machinery Engineering Corporation), who headed a Chinese delegation to Athens, yesterday signed a strategic agreement with main power utilty PPC’s chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis.

Last Friday, SGCC, the State Grid Corporation of China, was one of two investors to submit a binding bid for a 24 percent stake of IPTO, the power grid operator. Italy’s Terna was the other bidder.

This trend of a growing Chinese presence in Greek energy matters appears likely to continue. Certain pundits believe that SGCC will not only be named the prefered bidder for IPTO’s 24 percent, but will also significantly shape the future development of the operator as well as its parent company PPC.

Interestingly, a closer look at the IPTO tender reveals that SGCC is also a part of the Terna bid. In November, 2014, SGCC acquired a 35 percent stake of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti Reti (CDP Reti), an Italian holding company, from Cassa depositi e prestiti Spa. CDP Reti holds a 29.85 percent stake in Terna. Yupeng He, is a member of CDP Reti’s board as an SGCC representative. Simply put, Terna’s rival bidder for IPTO’s 24 percent holds a stake in Terna.

SGCC is also linked to Greece’s long-running sale effort offering a 66 percent share of DESFA, the natural gas grid operator. Azerbaijani energy firm Socar, which appears set to finalize a deal for the DESFA sale with the Greek government, will need to cut at least 17 percent from a 66 percent DESFA stake it is entitled to, as the winning bidder of a 2013 tender, following intervention from the European Commission. Italy’s Snam is expected to take on Socar’s surrendered amount. It could exceed 30 percent. CDP Reti, in which SGCC holds a 35 percent share, owns 30 percent of Snam.