ELPE sale could be delayed by worker site inspection blocks

A Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) employees blockade yesterday that prevented visiting officials of Swiss firm Glencore from conducting on-site inspections at two ELPE refinieries west of Athens is likely to delay a privatization plan offering 50.1 percent of the petroleum firm.

Glencore is one of two qualifiers through to the second round of the Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) international tender. Officials representing the other qualifier, Dutch enterprise Vitol, also plan to hold on-site inspections of the ELPE refineries, in Elefsina and Aspropyrgos, over the next few days, but the Greek petroleum company’s employees will presumably raise renewed resistance.

Privatization officals have yet to announce any alternate plans that could seek to counter the ELPE employee blockades.

The two qualifiers, already granted access to ELPE’s vrtual data room (VDR), also intend to inspect ELPE’s refinery in Thessaloniki.

Binding offers from Glencore and Vitol are expected around late September to early October, but delays could shift the deadline, still officially unannounced, to late in the year.

Despite the problems, the ELPE sale is making gradual progress. In a recent development, a total of eight evaluators, including banks and consultants, submitted offers to a tender offering an independent evaluation task for the sale. TAIPED, the state privatization fund, will declare a winner for the evaluation task within the first half of September.

Based on yesterday’s closing share price, 50.1 percent of ELPE is estimated at 1.1 billion euros.

The on-site refinery inspections by Glencore and Vitol representatives were planned as a follow-up to meetings in Athens in July, when ELPE’s financial figures were presented to the two candidates.

The intervention by ELPE employees is expected to delay the overall sale procedure by at least a month, some officials believe.