Brussels questions PPC over market manipulation suspicions

The main power utility PPC, suspected by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition of abusing its dominant position and manipulating Greece’s energy market through its hydropower units, has been asked to provide thorough responses to a list of questions forwarded by Brussels, investigating the utility’s practices.

The DG-Comp, which has delivered an initial report, began investigating the Greek power utility two years ago after invading its headquarters in Athens, as well as those of the power grid operator IPTO in February, 2017, for information concerning the probe. Brussels officials already possessed some PPC-related information prior to their walk-in and also accumulated further details following the invasion.

The probe has been an underlying threat for PPC ever since the DG-Comp invasion. The effort’s initial report has emerged at a bad time for the power utility, hot on the heels of its failed attempt to sell lignite units, a bailout requirement.

Speculation has already begun as to what the follow-up demands on PPC could be. The energy ministry, doing its utmost to keep intact as much of the state-controlled power utility’s corporate make-up as possible, fears Brussels may start applying pressure for the inclusion of PPC’s hydropower plants into an upgraded sale package.

The set of questions forwarded by the DG-Comp, a procedure required once initial reports have been completed, could represent the first step in a process leading to EU law infringement charges against PPC and Greece.

Though not confirmed, the data collected by the Brussels officials from the PPC and IPTO Athens offices is believed to include details suggesting wholesale price manipulation by the power utility through overstated capacities concerning its hydropower units, as well as overstated unit capacities of other PPC units not actually available at the time, the objective being to sideline facilities operated by rival electricity producers.

On a recent visit to Greece, as part of a post-bailout review, lender representatives, hinting at what the DG-Comp had in store, adamantly questioned whether market- abuse restrictive measures have been enforced.