Meticulous processing delaying DESFA offer disclosures

TAIPED, the state privatization fund is paying particular attention to detail in its processing and inspection of bids submitted by two consortiums to an international tender offering a 66 percent stake of DESFA, Greece’s natural gas grid operator, a key concern being the need to single out the lead players in each of these two consortiums and the terms they intend to set for their partners.

Though this meticulous inspection process has significantly delayed the disclosure of binding bids, submitted over a month ago, TAIPED is determined to avoid mistakes following an unsuccessful previous effort, not too long ago, to sell a 66 percent stake of DESFA.

The European Commission had expressed concerns that that sale effort’s preferred bidder, Azerbaijan’s Socar, would block rivals from operating in the Greek natural gas market. Brussels had also raised issues as to whether the tender’s outcome breached EU regulations.

The relaunched sale’s local authorities want to avoid any negative reaction from the European Directorate for Competition in this latest effort.

Italy’s Snam, Spain’s Enagás Internacional and Belgium’s Fluxys formed a consortium to submit a joint bid for the follow-up DESFA tender. 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.

The privatization fund has demanded various details from the participants over the past month or so.

The bids made by the two consortiums now appear likely to be opened next week, which would take the procedure deeper into the month. Recent reports had suggested the offers would be opened late this week.

For some time now, pundits have contended the new sale effort could generate offers in excess of 500 million euros, or 25 percent over the 400 million euros offered by Socar in the preceding unfinished attempt.

The natural gas market’s prospects in the wider southeast European region, as a result of new pipeline projects; steady yields promised by DESFA’s tariff level; and the operator’s strong cash reserves have been cited as three main reasons nurturing these high hopes.