ELPE privatization’s public offering decision needed within ten days

The next ten-day period will be of crucial importance for the ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) privatization and a request made by Greece’s Capital Market Commission calling for the eventual buyer of a 50.1 percent stake of ELPE – being offered through an international tender now down to two contenders, Dutch enterprise Vitol and Switzerland’s Glencore – to buy shares offered by smaller shareholder groups at the same price, through a public offering procedure.

Disagreements between authorities will need to be resolved no later than October 20, otherwise TAIPED, the state privatization fund, will need to delay the binding bids deadline faced by the prospective buyers until November, possibly later.

The Capital Market Commission appears has insisted that this privatization cannot be exempted from public offering procedures as, besides the Greek State, selling 20.5 of its 35.5 percent stake, the sale also involves a private-sector company, Paneuropean, ELPE’s main shareholder, which owns 45.47 percent and is selling a 30.47 percent stake. Subsequently, the sale cannot be regarded as one of exclusive interest to the public sector, the Capital Market Commission contends.

TAIPED disagrees with this stance and has referred to reports of independent law firms claiming there is no public offer issue.

If the Capital Market Commission’s position prevails, then the ELPE privatization’s winning bidder – either Vitol or Glencore – will need to need to buy shares offered by other shareholders at the same price. The ELPE stake to be acquired by the eventual buyer could reach as much as 70 percent, as institutional and small-scale investors, Greek and foreign, currently hold a 19 percent stake in the petroleum firm.