DESFA tender nears, Italy’s Snam among the favorites

A new tender to offer 66 percent of DESFA, Greece’s natural gas grid operator, expected to be announced within the next few weeks by TAIPED, the state privatization fund, has, in the lead up, drawn the interest of companies already familiar to the local market through expressions of interest made in the past as well as new parties.

Energy minister Giorgos Stathakis, commenting just days ago, informed that the tender will be announced within the current month.

Italy’s Snam, holding a 20 percent stake in the TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) now under construction, is believed to be preparing to submit an offer to the DESFA tender, viewing a majority stake in the Greek operator as a springboard for further investments in the wider region.

Snam, seen as a favorite, had joined Azerbaijan’s Socar, the winning bidder of the previous DESFA tender, as a partner before that sale procedure collapsed late last year following interventions by Athens and Brussels that undermined the investment’s revenue potential.

Belgium’s Fluxys and Spain’s Enagas, which hold TAP consortium stakes of 19 percent and 16 percent, respectively, Dutch company Gasunie, Romania’s Transgaz, as well as new players, among them France’s GRTgas and two funds, SFPI and Marguerite, have also all been metioned as prospective contenders. Given the tender’s terms, the funds would have to make joint bids with certified European operators. The tender will be aimed at certified European operators.

A number of representatives of prospective bidders have made visits to Athens over the past few weeks seeking detailed information on the forthcoming tender. Many of these investors have already closely examined DESFA’s ten-year investment plan, according to energypress sources.

A government plan to pursue fast-track procedures for the DESFA sale with the aim of completing the sale by the end of this year is believed to be encouraging prospective bidders. However, the interest would have been even greater had tax incentives and other favorable measures been incorporated into the DESFA sale package, one pundit told energypress.

Current international conditions, the considerable number of respective enterprises up for sale at present, and a certain degree of uncertainty that has crept in as a result of the first tender’s demise are expected to subdue offers to less than the 400 million-euro bid submitted by Socar for DESFA’s 66 percent in the first sale attempt, according to market officials.