Country’s big energy players gearing up for DEPA sale

The past couple of days could be regarded as an unofficial launch of DEPA’s (public gas corporation) privatization, given the strong interest expressed by major players for the gas utility’s commercial division.

Two of the country’s biggest energy market players, the Mytilineos corporate group and ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), which holds a 35 percent stake of DEPA, made clear their interest in the gas utility’s commercial section yesterday, just hours after energy minister Giorgos Stathakis updated energypress on the DEPA privatization model to be adopted.

The government and country’s lenders have agreed on a DEPA sale model entailing a split of the gas utility into two subsidiaries representing its commercial and distribution network divisions. This split is expected in September.

Motor Oil Hellas is also expected to emerge as a candidate, highlighting how coveted the DEPA privatization is for energy players.

Motor Oil Hellas recently announced a plan to enter the retail natural gas market through its Coral network of gas stations.

The petroleum firm has filed a complaint to the competition committee over DEPA’s close-to-finalized effort to acquire Shell’s 49 percent of their EPA Attiki joint venture covering supply in the wider Athens area. DEPA already holds a 51 percent stake and would fully own EPA Attiki if the deal with Shell is finalized.

The Motor Oil Hellas complaint could turn into legal action as DEPA, already controlling the country’s biggest wholesale gas agreements, would also gain major control in the capital’s retail market and affect competition.

This issue is certainly not one of minor importance and could end up delaying the overall plan for the retail gas market’s restructuring as well as DEPA’s privatization.

Greece’s wholesale gas market is also changing. Until recently, DEPA controlled this market as the dominant importer of natural gas. DEPA held a 96 percent of the wholesale gas market in 2016.

Things began to change in 2017 when Prometheus Gas, a joint venture formed by the Copelouzos group and Gazpromexport, imported a total of one billion cubic meters, capturing a 20 percent share of the market. M&M Gas, a joint venture involving Motor Oil Hellas and Mytilineos, also imported gas amounts in 2017, through the Greek-Bulgarian interconnection.

Mytilineos is already very active in the wholesale natural gas market as an LNG importer. It plans to import a first Qatar Gas shipment next month. Mytilineos has also established a direct trading partnership with Gazprom and is believed to be negotiating a deal with another major player.