DESFA management to stay with Socar, minister insists

Management of DESFA, the local natural gas grid operator, will be controlled by the prospective main buyer, the Azeri company Socar, as was originally planned, and cannot be changed, Greece’s energy minister Panos Skourletis pointed out yesterday. The Greek minister also stressed the DESFA sale’s procedure should have already been completed.

The former pre-Syriza Greek coalition had originally launched a tender, over two years ago, for the sale of a 66 percent share of DESFA. Socar emerged as the winning bidder but the European Commission eventually intervened, presumably over EU security and competition concerns.

The EU executive body wants a third company to enter the deal and acquire a 17 percent stake in DESFA. Socar will need to surrender this stake, leaving it with a 49 percent share. Skourletis noted the Azeri company will need to accept the European Commission condition if the deal is to be finalized.

The energy minister also confirmed that Italian company Snam has emerged as the latest foreign company to be interested in DESFA’s 17 percent. Belgium’s Fluxys and Dutch company Gasunie have already forwarded letters to TAIPED, the State Privatization Fund, expressing their interest. Skourletis mentioned that a Greek consortium may also declare an interest in the minority DESFA stake.

The minister added there would be no change to the sale price that had initially been agreed to for DESFA’s 66 percent, set at 400 million euros. If so, ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), holder of a 35 percent stake in DESFA, stands to receive 212 million euros, and the Greek state, which controls a 31 percent share, will receive 188 million euros.