An on-schedule launch of the DEPA gas utility’s privatization procedure will depend on the time it will take the Competition Committee to approve a recent local takeover agreement between DEPA and Shell concerning the Greek 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.
DEPA went into the negotiations with Shell already holding 51 percent stakes in these joint ventures. The deal was reached for a price of 150 million euros.
If the Competition Committee approves the DEPA-Shell agreement by September, then the DEPA privatization could begin on schedule, in September or October, with the gas utility’s split into two firms, DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Trade, as agreed to by the government and the country’s lenders for the privatization.
According to the plan, a 50.1 percent stake of the trading firm is expected to be offered to investors while 14.9 percent, including veto rights, will be maintained by the Greek State. As a second stage of the privatization, the Greek State’s offering to investors of DEPA Infrastructure will be limited to a minority stake of no less than 14 percent. The Greek State is expected to retain a 51 percent stake in DEPA Infrastructure.
The gas utility’s privatization procedure will most likely be delayed until 2019 if the Competition Committee requires an extended period to examine the DEPA-Shell agreement.
Pundits closely following the developments have not ruled out delays in the DEPA privatization procedure.
Greek petroleum group Motor Oil Hellas lodged an official complaint to the Competition Committee over the DEPA-Shell agreement while it was still in the making, noting it would enable DEPA to dominate natural gas supply in the wider Athens area. Motor Oil plans to soon enter Greece’s natural gas retail market through its subsidiary Coral (Shell).
DEPA, whose repositioning in Greece’s natural gas retail market was included as a bailout term, has also reached a deal with Italy’s Eni. DEPA agreed to withdraw from the Zenith gas supply company covering the country’s north by selling its 51 percent stake in this venture to the Italian firm, previously a minority partner with a 49 percent share.
At least three key players, Mytilineos, the Copelouzos group and ELPE, which already holds a 35 percent stake in DEPA, have expressed an unofficial interest for DEPA Trade.
These players, as well as others who have yet to disclose their interest, all see DEPA Trade as an enterprise that is ready for robust business given DEPA’s experience, existing customer base and foreign deals. More crucially, the investors also see a company that is soon expected to wholly own the EPA and EDA supply and distribution firms which, until recently, monopolized the retail gas market in the wider Athens area.