Competition Committee to decide on DEPA retail market role

The Competition Committee will decide whether DEPA, the public gas corporation, can maintain its presence in Greece’s retail natural gas market, according to additional terms included in the bailout agreement.

The terms specify that an assessment by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, and the Competition Committee, in association with the European Commission, to judge whether competition in the retail natural gas market remains restricted, will be made once the ownership make-ups of the existing EPA gas supply companies have been reshuffled. This assessment will need to be made prior to the bailout-required sale of a 65 percent sale of DEPA.

DEPA currently holds 51 percent stakes in EPA Attiki and EPA Thessaly-Thessaloniki, in respective partnerships with Shell and ENI.

If the Competition Committee decides that prospective line-up changes at the EPA companies continue to limit competition in the gas market, which needs to be fully liberalized by January 1, then the new corporate models will face reexamination.

At this stage, ENI appears interested in acquiring DEPA’s 51 percent in EPA Thessaly-Thessaloniki, while Shell seems interested in selling its 49 percent share of EPA Attiki to DEPA.

According to energypress sources, the country’s lenders are determined to prevent the formation of a state-controlled monopoly in Greece’s retail natural gas market. The lenders may allow DEPA to increase its stake in EPA Attiki, serving the wider Athens area, but they will not allow a full takeover, the sources informed.

Shell’s intended withdrawal from EPA Attiki is made complicated by the need for an evaluation of the premature loss of this venture’s monopoly, originally promised to last until 2030, but cut short by Greece’s bailout-required gas market reforms. The value of this lost monopoly will be factored into the sale price. For some time now, Shell has valued its monopoly loss at 150 million euros.

The negotiations, part of the road map established for the gas market, need to be completed by March, 2018, when, according to additional bailout terms, the tender for the sale of DEPA’s 65 percent needs to be announced. Any delays in the negotiations between DEPA, Shell and ENI promise to delay the planned DEPA sale.