French not interested in PPC’s lignite, EDF absence highlights

The confirmed absence of any EDF representation whatsoever in a French business delegation joining French President Emmanuel Macron on his two-day visit to Greece this Thursday and Friday sends a clear message that the French energy company is not interested in main power utility PPC’s lignite-only unit sale package. A market test for the bailout-required sale is expected to be staged next month.

Though the sale list is still subject to revisions based on ongoing negotiations between the Greek government and the country’s lenders, it has now become perfectly clear, following previous indications, that EDF is not interested in PPC’s lignite-based investment offer.

Last April, on a visit to Athens, officials of Edison, an EDF subsidiary firm, had made clear to Greece’s energy minister Giorgos Stathakis that the approaching PPC unit sale package would need to include hydropower units in order to draw their investment interest.

At the time, Stathakis responded by informing the visiting French officials that the Greek government has made up its mind on the PPC sale and would only put up for sale lignite-related facilities.

CO2 emission restrictions in the EU and the costs that would be entailed in upgrading PPC’s lignite-fired units amount to a major disincentive for the French energy company.

The Greek government would like French participation – either by EDF, or through its subsidiary Edison – in the imminent market test, rather than just Chinese and east European interest, as this would add clout to the overall sale procedure.

Even if the French were to take part without any genuine investment intent, this would provide great support for the message the government is seeking to portray of itself as a business mover.

For months now, the energy ministry has sought to create a convincing impression of a strong lignite investment interest, the underlying reason being to gain time against the European Commission, pushing for the inclusion of hydropower PPC units to the sale package.

Offering consolation to the Greek government, French oil giant Total’s chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanne will be a part of the French delegation to visit Athens this week. Greece’s energy ministry recently announced an international tender offering two offshore blocks southwest of Crete and west of Crete. The tender was prompted by an initial interest expressed for these areas by a consortium comprised of Total, ExxonMobil and ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum).