Minister’s PPC rescue plan aims to inject €500m into utility

Power utility PPC stands to gain financial support worth an estimated 500 million euros from a series of measures announced in Parliament yesterday by the newly appointed energy minister Costis Hatzidakis, the aim of his measures being to ensure the utility’s sustainability.

The minister’s restructuring plan for PPC, under severe financial pressure, includes an electricity tariff increase that is expected to boost the company’s annual earnings by roughly 200 million euros. This tariff hike, expected to be a single-digit rise, will not burden consumers, the minister pledged, as it will be neutralized by an equivalent reduction of a RES-supporting ETMEAR surcharge included on electricity bills. A 10 percent discount for punctual electricity payments will remain intact.

The government’s support plan for PPC also includes a cash injection of approximately 200 million euros for public service compensation (YKO) returns linked to previous years.

The sale of a minority stake of network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, a PPC subsidiary, to a strategic investor is also a part of the minister’s plan.

A voluntary exit plan will seek to reduce the company’s payroll, now 16,000 strong, by 2,000 workers. It will target staff members who have qualified for pension rights but have chosen to keep working.

Also, NOME auctions, which, so far, have set back PPC by some 600 million euros since their introduction about three years ago, will be abandoned. The auctions have offered PPC rivals lignite and hydropower electricity generated by the power utility at below-cost prices.

Greater pressure will also be placed on PPC customers dodging electricity bill payments despite believed to be capable of covering required amounts. A mere 60,000 customers owe PPC approximately 800,000 euros, Hatzidakis, the energy minister, reiterated yesterday. PPC’s unpaid receivables figure has reached 2.7 billion euros.

Many aspects of the minister’s speech yesterday echoed proposals included in an older plan by McKinsey. The consulting firm was commissioned by PPC but its proposals have yet to be implemented. Plan features included a call for an operating profit improvement of 500 million euros over a five-year period, a voluntary exit plan for 2,000 persons, as well as tariff hikes.