Months-long negotiations between DEPA, the public gas corporation, and Italy’s Eni for the latter’s full acquisition of the EPA Thessaloniki-Thessaly gas supply company, commercially dubbed Zenith, are expected to be completed today with the signing of a finalized agreement.
Until now, DEPA has held a 51 percent stake in this venture and Eni the other 49 percent. No changes are expected to be made to the EDA Thessaloniki-Thessaly gas distribution company. DEPA and Eni will retain their respective 51 and 49 percent stakes in this venture.
Not unintentionally, the timing of the deal’s anticipated completion coincides with a meeting in Athens today between energy minister Giorgos Stathakis and the country’s lender representatives. Greek officials are keen to send a signal to the troika that pending bailout issues at the energy ministry are being settled.
DEPA also appears to have been reached an agreement with Shell to acquire the latter’s 49 percent share of the EPA Attiki gas supply and EDA Attiki gas distribution companies covering the wider Athens area. DEPA currently holds 51 percent shares in these ventures. The two sides held marathon talks yesterday. Pending issues appear to have been settled while, according to sources, the agreement is worth 150 million euros.
The government and lenders still need to agree on the resulting market structure following these rearrangements before a DEPA-Shell deal can be officially announced. DEPA would fully control EPA and EDA Attiki and hold a majority stake in EDA Thessaloniki-Thessaly.
The finalization of DEPA’s future roles in all the aforementioned ventures will enable officials to begin discussing and implementing the gas utility’s privatization model. This sale is planned to offer investors a 65 percent stake.
A meeting today to involve Stathakis, the energy minister, finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos and the lenders will indicate whether a Greek proposal for the DEPA privatization stands a chance of being accepted.
An alternative DEPA privatization plan prepared by the energy minister entails the establishment of a holding company to serve as an umbrella for three new subsidiaries respectively covering commercial, distribution and international projects divisions.
A number of local officials have questioned whether this plan can raise the privatization funds expected from DEPA as the proposal, restricting investors to a minority stake of DEPA’s networks, is seen as unattractive.
A second idea has also been tabled. It entails the establishment of two subsidiaries, one representing DEPA’s networks and the other the firm’s commercial division, without a holding company. Each subsidiary would be sold separately to represent a 65 percent privatization. This proposal recognizes that the gas networks and commerce are two different markets. Some investors may focus on the networks and others on the commercial side.
Apart from the privatization model that needs to be adopted for DEPA, ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), which holds a 35 percent stake of this gas utility, also needs to make its position clear.
ELPE officials have told energypress that retaining a minority role in DEPA is pointless for the enterprise, while suggesting ELPE would withdraw from its DEPA interests if the price is right.
ELPE is interested in the natural gas market but only as a majority shareholder with managerial control, the officials explained.