RAE starts DESFA sale inspection process with auditor still at work

A dossier submitted by the winning bidding team of an international tender offering a 66 percent stake of DESFA, Greece’s natural gas grid operator, to the Court of Auditors may still be undergoing inspection but RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has already begun preliminary work concerning its own certification for the new owners.

RAE will examine the winning team’s portfolio for any complications, but the certification process should be swift as the investment team is comprised entirely of EU firms – Italy’s Snam, Spain’s Enagás Internacional and Belgium’s Fluxys. Authorities are already confident all three meet the sale’s requirements.

The certification process was more complicated in the recent sale of a 24 percent of IPTO, the power grid operator, to China’s SGCC, as the incoming strategic investor was a non-EU firm.

As soon as the Court of Auditors has completed its work, the investment trio’s dossier will be transferred to RAE for inspection. It will also be forwarded to the European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition for a concurrent approval procedure, the aim being to complete the sale’s overall inspection process as swiftly as possible.

Snam officials were in Athens last week for a first-hand update on the progress being made. Officials of the Italian enterprise met with  TAIPED (state privatization fund) and other authorities involved in the sale’s ownership transfer process.

An important first step was made last month when shareholders at ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) approved the petroleum firm’s 35 percent sale of the overall 66 percent DESFA stake offered to investors through the international tender. The privatization fund contributed the other 31 percent of DESFA on behalf of the Greek State.

The signing of a share purchase agreement (SPA) will represent the next step once the Court of Auditors, RAE and the Directorate General for Competition in Brussels have completed their inspections.

TAIPED and the winning investment team are then expected to sign a finalized sale agreement for the transfer of DESFA’s 66 percent to the buying trio for a price of 535 million euros.

The deal’s finalization is expected by the end of December. Until then, the current DESFA board is not permitted to maintain any contact with the new buyers for provision of any information concerning the Greek natural gas grid operator.