DESFA sale finally appears to have been achieved, six years on

A total of roughly six years, two international tenders, political upheavals and European Commission intervention were needed to conclude the apparent 66 percent sale of DESFA, the natural gas grid operator.

TAIPED, the state privatizaton fund, yesterday named a consortium led by Italy’s Snam and including Spain’s Enagás Internacional and Belgium’s Fluxys as the preferred bidder, following its 535 million-euro second-round offer.

DESFA’s two sellers, TAIPED, selling 31 percent on behalf of the Greek State, and ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), selling 35 percent, have accepted the offer.

It also needs to be endorsed by the Court of Audit as well as the competition authorities in Athens and Brussels. Pundits do not anticipate any surprise developments, as was the case with the preceding DESFA tender, whose preferred bidder, Azerbaijan’s Socar, faced issues.

Socar had offered 330 million euros for a 66 percent stake of DESFA, five years ago, when Greece’s country risk factor was higher. Also, the operator’s current cash deposits, estimated at around 200 million euros, are considerably greater than they were during the previous sale effort.

ELPE stands to receive 283.7 million euros, while TAIPED will receive 251.2 million euros from the Snam-led consortium’s 535 million-euro offer.

Snam, Fluxys and Enagás hold 20 percent, 19 percent and 16 percent stakes, respectively, in the TAP consortium that is developing the Trans Adratic Pipeline, to supply natural gas from Azerbaijan to central Europe, via Turkey, Greece, Albania and Italy. Its launch is expected in 2020. The consortium’s trio sees DESFA as a platform for wider regional interests.