DESFA tender continuation being looked at to save time

The energy ministry appears to have not written off continuing the DESFA (natural gas grid operator) sale effort through its original international tender – offering investors a 66 percent stake of the operator – as such a course of action would save at least five months. A decision is expected soon, possibly within the current week.

The ministry is now examining a specific legal approach proposed by its legal team, according to which the initial tender may allow the seller to revise the sale’s regulations and procedures without affecting the tender’s legality, energypress sources informed.

The launch of a new tender from scratch would require at least five months of preliminary work, including the appointment of a consultant, the procedure’s announcement and the evaluation.

Overall, a new tender is expected to take no less than 16 months to complete from the moment it is announced to its finalization. Such a delay would derail Greece’s entire privatizations agenda, which the energy ministry, facing relentless pressure from the lenders, would rather avoid.

Though the option to continue the initial tender currently represents a borderline case in terms of legality, the fact that just one investor – Azerbaijan’s Socar – submitted an offer before dropping out greatly diminishes the likelihood of any legal challenge, on the grounds of regulation changes.

Revisions being considered include tax-related details and other problems identified in the initial tender by legal officials.

The energy ministry’s thoughts of continuing the initial tender were prompted by the pressure being applied by the country’s lenders on the government for an acceleration of the DESFA sale, which has turned into a saga.

This year’s national budget anticipates a 188 million-euro infusion from the Greek State’s sale of DESFA’s 66 percent to Socar. The Azerbaijani energy firm ended up withdrawing from the sale late last year after the government applied revenue-limiting measures to the operator.

Besides the continuation of the initial tender, a fast-track procedure for a new tender is another option. TAIPED, the state privatization fund, has already examined this course, which could be launched this month and rushed through an extremely tight schedule leading to completion in seven to eight months. Such a course would greatly restrict the tender’s stages, including the time available for prospective investors to express their interest and the deadline for binding offers.