Fluxys, Enagas setting eyes on DESFA as Socar prepares to go

With Azeri energy company Socar appearing to be merely sitting out the validity period of a letter of guarantee it had submitted for a 66 percent acquisition of DESFA, the natural gas grid operator, before withdrawing from the process without repercussions, preparations already seem to have been set in motion for a new prospective buyer, under revised terms and equity share.

According to energypress sources, the European Commission, which, late last year, stalled an agreement between DESFA and Socar to investigate the deal over EU concerns, has accepted a proposal by Greece’s current administration that would allow the Greek state to retain a 51 percent share of DESFA and place the other 49 percent up for sale. At this early stage, it does not appear likely that Socar will react to such a plan.

A two-year period since Socar’s submission of a letter of guarantee will elapse this month, allowing the Azeri firm to withdraw from the tender.

Should the DESFA sale’s terms and equity share for sale be revised, the Belgian company Fluxys appears the most likely company to move in for the acquisition of a 49 percent stake in the Greek natural gas grid operator.

Production Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis has already spoken favorably of Fluxys and its head officer, who recently visited Athens to meet with the chiefs of companies involved in the TAP (Trans-Adriatic Pipeline) consortium. Fluxys holds a 19 percent stake in the project’s development, to carry Azeri gas to other parts of Europe via Greece.

The Belgian company, state controlled, as Lafazanis has noted, is seeking to heighten its presence and level of activities in the wider region of southeast Europe, in order to capitalize further on its involvement in the TAP project.

But it does not appear to be the only company with such thoughts in mind. According to sources, the ongoing talks for DESFA’s future have also prompted the interest of another European company, Spain’s Enagas, which has attempted to enter the Greek gas market in the past.

Whatever the case, it is believed that the price tag on the DESFA sale will be considerably lower than the 400 million euros offered by the Azeris some two years ago.