DEPA board unanimously OKs Shell local takeover agreement

The board at DEPA, the public gas corporation, yesterday unanimously approved an agreement reached with Shell just days ago following prolonged negotiations for the gas utility’s acquisition of the Dutch firm’s 49 percent share of the EPA Attiki gas supply and EDA Attiki gas distribution ventures covering the wider Athens area.

This development had been preceded by DEPA’s finalized agreement with Italy’s Eni for the latter’s full acquisition of the EPA Thessaloniki-Thessaly gas supply company, commercially dubbed Zenith. This agreement is now being examined by the competition committee. A final decision is expected by the end of this month.

Returning to DEPA’s agreement with Shell, the gas utility’s shareholders – TAIPED, the state privatization fund, controls 65 percent and ELPE, Hellenic Petroleum, the other 35 percent – are expected to decide within the next fortnight before this agreement is forwarded to the competition committee for approval. A finalized decision by the committee is anticipated by August.

The agreement between DEPA and Shell was reached for 150 million euros – approximately 40 million euros for the EPA gas supply company and 110 million euros for the EDA distribution company. The total amount is within DEPA’s evaluation range – close to the lower end.

DEPA stands to collect 52 million euros for the sale of its 51 percent in the Zenith gas supply company in the north to Eni, plus five million euros for dividends. This amount is also within the gas utility’s evaluation range, towards the higher end, according to data provided by the utility’s financial advisers.

DEPA’s three agreements, heralded as a major achievement by the government, given the bailout’s prior action restrictions and deadlines, represent the completion of the first stage of the gas utility’s transformation following its withdrawal from the retail gas market in Greece’s north and bolstered position in the wider Athens market.  These agreements now clear the way for the commencement of DEPA’s privatization.

The gas utility realized, from early on, that it would need to reinforce its standing in infrastructure and realign itself in the retail gas market to remain competitive amid the newly liberalized, competitive market, pundits told energypress.

DEPA also needed to find solutions to meet bailout obligations, their objective more or less being to break the gas utility’s local dominance, which is why the company worked closely with the energy ministry on many position papers, negotiations with the lenders and board decisions.