New DESFA offers set to be submitted, and unsealed by Friday

Two consortiums participating in an international tender offering 66 percent of DESFA, the natural gas grid operator, are expected to submit improved follow-up offers to TAIPED, the state privatization fund, by tomorrow. Processing work is expected to take a day or two before the follow-up offers are unsealed by Friday.

The additional round of offers is necessary as the initial bids made by the two teams, both over 400 million euros, were less than 15 percent apart. TAIPED, the state privatization fund, included a term requiring additional bids in such a case to generate the highest possible sale price.

Pundits believe the bidding teams have held back their firepower for the tender’s final round. This has raised hopes of a sale price close to 500 million euros, if not more.

Italy’s Snam, Spain’s Enagás Internacional and Belgium’s Fluxys formed a consortium to participate in the DESFA tender. All three hold key stakes in the TAP consortium. Another Spanish entry, Regasificadora del Noroeste (Reganosa Asset Investments) joined forces with Romania’s Transgaz and the EBRD, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, for the other offer.

Suma Chakrabarti, president of EBRD, recently met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, stressing his bank plans to invest between 400 and 600 million euros in Greece this year.

In a previous and unfinished sale attempt that also offered a 66 percent of DESFA, Azerbaijan’s Socar was declared the prefered bidder with a bid of 400 million euros. At the time, five years ago, when Greece’s country risk factor was higher, the operator’s 66 percent had been estimated to be worth 330 million euros.

DESFA’s current investment plan offers far more promise than it did five years earlier. Also, the operator’s current cash deposits, estimated at around 200 million euros, are considerably greater than they were during the previous sale effort.