Gasunie may exit DESFA team, gov’t wants at least €400m

Authorities closely following developments leading to today’s deadline for a tender offering 66 percent stake of DESFA, Greece’s natural gas grid operator, which expires at 5pm, believe the two bidding teams still in contention following an expression of interest in the previous round will both submit binding bids, minus a member from one of the two teams.

The Dutch operator Gasunie may withdraw from a four-member consortium led by Italy’s Snam and also comprised of Spain’s Enagas and Belgium’s Fluxys, energypress sources have informed.

Even if Gasunie joins its team’s anticipated DESFA offer today, the firm will eventually withdraw as its administration has reached a strategic decision to focus on other entrepreneurial fronts, the same sources noted.

Authorities explained that a withdrawal by Gasunie from the Snam-led consortium would neither have any legal repercussions on the Dutch operator nor any impact on the sale’s procedure.

The role of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in the tender’s other prospective bidding team, spearheaded by Spain’s Regasificadora del Noroeste (Reganosa) with Romania’s Transgaz as a partner, remains unclear.

It is rumored the EBRD intends to hold a minority stake. No announcements have been made. Market authorities contacted by energypress described the EBRD’s involvement as unusual given its institutional role.

Government officials, responding to energypress questions, said market conditions leading up to today’s deadline indicate that a higher price will be achieved, compared to a previous and unfinished DESFA tender, also offering a 66 percent stake. That attempt had attracted a 400 million-euro offer from its winning bidder, Azerbaijan’s Socar.

“Under no circumstances can we accept a single cent below 400 million euros,” one government official told energypress.

ELPE has maintained a similar view. The petroleum firm’s administration has repeatedly noted that the decision by shareholders on whether to sell ELPE’s 35 percent stake in DESFA or not will depend on the price offered.

The follow-up tender could produce offers of around 500 million euros, according to certain estimates.

Any hiccups in the latest DESFA tender would create serious issues for the government as this sale represents a key factor in the conclusion of the bailout’s third review, promising the release of a 5.7 billion-euro tranche. A Eurogroup meeting on the matter is scheduled for this coming Monday.