An unfinished legal battle between gas utility DEPA and ELFE (Hellenic Fertilizers and Chemicals), recently vindicated by an Athens Court of First Instance verdict calling for a 63 million-euro return from the gas utility for gas supply overcharging, threatens to block the launch of a privatization offering 65 percent of DEPA Trade, a new DEPA entity established for the privatization, despite strong investor interest.
The Court of First Instance decision in favor of ELFE, delivered four months ago, is a major blow for DEPA’s finances as the sum could potentially balloon if other firms follow the example set by ELFE and also take legal action, authorities have stressed.
The court ruled that DEPA overcharged ELFE between 2010 and 2015 by applying an oil-indexed gas pricing formula used by Russia’s Gazprom.
DEPA is expected to win an appeal as the utility is backed by a strong case, sector experts have pointed out.
If, however, ELFE ultimately proves these predictions wrong and wins the case then other companies supplied by DEPA, including electricity producers, would be prompted to take legal action of their own against the utility, taking advantage of the legal precedent. This would require DEPA to return sums worth hundreds of millions of euros, in addition to the ELFE amount.
Subsequently, the DEPA Trade sale cannot proceed with such ambiguity hanging in the air as prospective bidders will simply not turn up and submit binding bids if all is not clear.