Gov’t ELPE thoughts unlikely to alter imminent sale launch

Energy minister Giorgos Stathakis requested revisions to the bailout’s energy-sector privatizations, ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) being a primary concern, at a meeting with the country’s lender representatives on Monday, but, according to sources, this will not alter the supplementary bailout’s scheduled commencement of a sale produre to offer the Greek State’s 35.5 percent stake in ELPE by late March.

Though a slight extension of this sale’s launch date, by a month or two, could be offered, the only negotiable aspect between the Greek government and lenders seems to concern the size of the Greek State’s ELPE stake to be placed for sale. But this would be conditional, the sources said.

An alternative budget revenue source of equivalent fiscal scale, not desirable and carrying political cost, would need to be found if the Greek government is to be permitted to offer a reduced Greek State stake in the ELPE privatization.

The stance to be adopted by Paneuropean Oil, a member of the Latsis corporate group holding a 45.47 percent stake in ELPE, will be pivotal for this privatization, the sources underlined.

The government and Latsis group are believed to have begun discussions for a plan that would offer 51 percent of ELPE to a strategic investor, plus managerial rights.

The government is also believed to be seeking to promote a convertible bond issue, as an alternative ELPE plan.

ELPE’s market value was recently estimated, by foreigh evaluators, to be worth 4.8 billion euros. Any prospective buyer would also need to shoulder the enterprise’s debt of two billion euros, which takes the total buying price to nearly 7 billion euros.

It remains questionable whether investor interest will be expressed given these figures, especially at a time when rising oil prices appear to represent unfavorable news for the refining sector. Major petroleum groups are once again focusing their investments on extraction.

A total amount of 500 million euros stemming from the sale of a Greek State stake in ELPE has been planned for the national budget in 2018.