Coral entering natural gas supply market, eyeing Balkans

Motor Oil Hellas subsidiary Coral’s (Shell) plan to enter the natural gas market and penetrate the Balkan and Cypriot regions was highlighted at a company event yesterday, held to mark the launch of a Coral company bond.

The company, which currently holds a 23 percent share of the fuels market and maintains a network representing 15 percent of the market, made clear its natural gas market aspirations.

“We have acquired a retail [natural gas supply] license and aim to utilize our network’s retail systems. We already have our first two [major] clients,” Giorgos Hatzopoulos, general manager at Coral, noted at the event, adding that trial runs are now being conducted for supply to a further 18 major-scale customers. “We will enter the retail natural gas market and, potentially, those of other energy forms,” he added.

Last year was significant for Coral as the firm began operating beyond Greece for the first time. This foreign activity was launched in Cyprus through the firm’s acquisition of Lukoil’s network of 31 retail outlets, holding an 8 percent share of the market. Coral aims to increase this Cypriot presence to 15 percent and 50 outlets within the next two years.

Besides Cyprus, Coral also acquired one retail outlet in Serbia. In just a few days from now, Coral expects to launch an additional outlet in Belgrade and follow up with the opening of a station in Novi Sad, Serbia’s second largest city.

Coral also holds the rights to use the Shell brand name in Montenegro and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom).

Coral plans to use its storage facilties in Kalohori, slightly west of Thessaloniki, to develop its market presence in the wider Balkan region.

Besides Kalohori, Coral also maintains company-owned storage facilities in northern Greece’s Kavala and Alexandroupoli, the Piraeus port city’s Perama district and Hania in Crete, all offering a total capacity of 150,493 cubic meters.

Coral expects its sales performance to reach 2.4 billion euros this year, from 1.94 billion euros last year, as a result of the rise in fuel prices and the firm’s entry into the shipping fuel market.

Coral posted an EBITDA (operating profit) figure of 44 million euros in 2017. This year, the company plans to make investments worth 35 million euros for the development of eight new refuelling stations in Greece, primarily at highway locations, as well as investments in the Balkans and Cyprus.

Over the past five years, Coral’s investments have averaged 17 million euros per year. The firm has invested a total of 85 million euros, mostly to replan its network.