ELPE among the energy firms off the privatizations list

At a time when some of the country’s prospective privatizations such as the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) and regional airports are being troubled by defensive antics employed by government officials, other privatization efforts, among them the partial sales of ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), main power utility PPC, and, possibly, DEPA (Public Gas Corporation), are being removed from the privatization agenda – at least by the Greek government.

The sales of the Greek state’s 35.5 percent share of ELPE, a 17 percent share of PPC, and DEPA were among 23 enterprises listed for privatization in the country’s third bailout agreement that was endorsed by Parliament in August. All were included in the bailout’s Asset Development Plan, the new privatizations fund, which, according to the bailout deal, needs to be launched this month and must raise 50 billion euros.

Environment and Energy Minister Panos Skourletis appears determined to exempt ELPE from the privatizations list. According to ministry associates, Skourletis, who met with ELPE’s leadership on Wednesday, does not intend to back the sale of the state’s stake in the company. The energy minister’s associates claim references pertaining to this in the bailout deal date back to older TAIPED (State Privatization Fund) plans no longer valid.

Besides ELPE, it appears that the government will also not include PPC’s 17 percent and DEPA in the new privatizaton fund. It remains unknown whether the state’s holdings in other strategic enterprises, besides the energy-sector companies, such as the ten-percent stake of OTE’s (Hellenic Telecommunications Organization), EYDAP (Athens Water Supply and Sewage Company), EYATH (Thessaloniki Water Company), and ELTA (Hellenic Post), will be listed in the new fund.

The government does not appear to have embraced the prospect of the new fund utilizing assets belonging to privatization candidates. Even so, the government has not requested that TAIPED return state equity shares currently under the fund’s control. Most likely, final decisions have yet to be made, despite ministerial claims opposing the privatizations.

The governing Syriza party had raised eyebrows in September, when it included just nine of the 23 bailout-linked privatizations in its pre-election agenda.