ELPE privatization effort fails to deliver result, next step unclear

A tender offering a 50.1 percent stake of ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), whose complicated make-up involved two sellers and four possible buyers, has failed to produce a result.

The Greek State was offering 20 percent of its 35.48 percent share and the Latsis group’s Paneuropean Oil 30.1 percent of its 45.47 stake.

As officials had strongly suspected ahead of yesterday’s deadline for binding bids, the sale procedure did not convince participants for a variety of reasons.

In the lead-up, SPA and SHA term negotiations with the sale’s main candidates Glencore and Vitol, both trading firms, made clear that emphasis needed to be placed on protecting the association between ELPE’s main activity, refining, and the domestic market. The petroleum group currently covers approximately 70 percent of the Greek market’s needs.

Glencore, which was eventually joined by US firm Carlyle for this sale, had other ideas. During the SPA talks, it strove for the incorporation of a term that would have offered the trading company exclusive control of ELPE’s production.

Instead, clauses were introduced to the tender’s SPA to protect supply to the Greek market and maintain the country’s strategic reserves for security reasons.

This development prompted the sale’s officials to place their hopes for a result on the privatization’s other second-round qualifier, Dutch trading firm Vitol, which was latter joined by Algeria’s Sonatrach.

The Algerian state-run energy company proved to be the more interested partner of this pairing, but the political turmoil over recent weeks in Algeria, which led to the resignation earlier this week of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the country’s leader over the past 20 years, prevented Sonatrach from pursuing what would have been the biggest takeover in the company’s history.

It remains to be seen how the government and TAIPED, the privatization fund, will respond to the sale’s failure. TAIPED had anticipated a significant inflow of privatization revenues from the ELPE sale.