Ministry’s DEPA hiring plan raises privatization concerns

An energy ministry plan to orchestrate hirings of 200 subcontracted external associates working for gas utility DEPA through a procedure that would skip bailout-related employment restrictions imposed on public sector enterprises has swiftly raised objections on a number of fronts and troubled authorities over the move’s impact on the utility’s prospective privatization.

Company shareholders fear the currently profitable utility’s market value will be diminished as a result of these hirings, seen as unnecessary additions that will bloat the payroll and reduce DEPA’s operating profit levels.

Besides the shareholders, DEPA employees on the payroll have also reacted fearing these hirings could affect their interests.

The ministry, looking to hand out favors as this is an election year, is planning to hire the 200 subcontracted workers through three subsidiaries not subject to the bailout-related employment restrictions imposed on public sector enterprises.

These are gas supplier EPA Attiki and gas distributor EDA Attiki, both covering the wider Athens area, as well as DEDA, responsible for gas network development in regions not covered by the parent company. Head officials at these subsidiaries have also expressed concerns over the repercussions of the energy ministry’s recruitment plan.

The DEPA privatization, not expected to be launched before July, may end up being loaded onto the agenda of the country’s next administration.

DEPA will be split into two new entities, DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Trade, for the privatization, to begin with a tender offering a majority stake (50% plus one share) in DEPA Trade. A 14 percent stake of DEPA Infrastructure will also be placed for sale at a latter date.