DESFA bidders set to make offers tomorrow; pundits spot differences

Two consortiums still in contention for a 66 percent stake of DESFA, Greece’s natural gas grid operator, now have just hours to go before submitting their binding offers to the sale’s tender, whose deadline expires tomorrow.

Any chance of a further deadline extension, requested by the sale’s participants as a result of certain concerns, has been ruled out.

There is no time for delays ahead of a crucial Eurogroup meeting this coming Monday. The DESFA sale is one of the pending issues that needs to display real progress if the bailout’s third review is to be concluded without alarm at the forthcoming meeting.

A team comprised of Italy’s Snam, Spain’s Enagas, Belgium’s Fluxys and Dutch operator Gasunie represents one of the two bidding teams. Spain’s Regasificadora del Noroeste (Reganosa) has joined forces with Romania’s Transgaz, both backed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Pundits have avoided making any predictions on the price level of offers, a key selection criterion, but they have made a note of quality and financial stature differences between the two consortiums.

Market officials have highlighted that the consortium led by Snam is primarily industrial-based and comprised of Europe’s biggest natural gas companies, all of which possess significant experience in international projects, including TAP, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline now being developed.

In addition, Snam maintains a presence in the Italian, Austrian, UK and French markets, pundits noted. The Italian firm’s portfolio includes 40,000 kilometers of gas pipelines, two LNG terminals, as well as 19 billion cubic meters of natural gas in storage. Consortium partner Fluxys is active in Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and France, while fellow member Enagas, maintaining a presence in Spain, is also active in Latin America.

The rival bidding team’s Regasificadora del Noroeste (Reganosa) possesses two LNG terminals, one in Spain and the other in Malta, as well as 130 kilometers of gas pipelines in Spain. Its partner Transgaz is primarily active in international projects concerning Romania and regional markets.

Given DESFA’s aim to bolster its standing as part of a wider Greek strategy to establish the country as a natural gas regional hub, pundits have pointed out as crucial the need for the Greek operator to benefit as greatly as possible from the application of European practices and, especially, a further expansion of Greece’s natural gas infrastructure.

Besides quality-related factors, pundits have also distinguished financial differences between the two bidding teams. The Snam-led consortium’s financial structure appears to be more compact, while also possessing attributes promising stability, experts have stressed.

Snam’s current bourse value of approximately 13 billion euros, as well as revenues of 2.5 billion euros in 2016, cannot be overlooked. The bourse values of Fluxys and Enagas currently stand at roughly two billion and five billion euros, respectively.

Rival bidder Regasificadora del Noroeste (Reganosa), whose shares are not listed, posted a revenue figure of 58.5 million euros in 2016. The bourse value of bidding partner Transgaz is roughly one billion euros while its revenues for 2016 reached 363 million euros. Despite the smaller numbers, the EBRD’s participation does bolster this consortium’s financial standing.

The government is hoping the rivalry between the two consortiums will generate elevated bids. Azerbaijan’s Socar, the winning bidder of a previous and unfinished DESFA tender also offering a 66 percent stake, had submitted an offer worth 400 million euros.