Snam, Socar officials arranging final details for their DESFA roles

Officials at Azerbaijani energy company Socar and Italy’s Snam are currently negotiating a shareholders agreement for DESFA, the natural gas grid operator, in anticipation of the Greek government’s imminent final proposal for the sale of a 66 percent stake of the operator.

Issues being worked on by the two prospective buyers include the percentage to be sold to Snam by Socar, the winner of an international tender for DEFSA’s 66 percent back in 2013; the price of this transfer; as well as the managerial and board roles of the two shareholders.

After winning the DESFA tender, Socar was asked to surrender at least 17 percent by the European Commission, seeking to keep the Azerbaijani firm’s stake in the Greek operator to no more than 49 percent.

The Greek government needs to forward its finalized proposal carrying all the issues agreed to in recent weeks by the Prime Minister’s adviser Dimitris Liakos with Socar and Snam officials.

These issues include a network usage fee increase of 35 percent for DESFA, well below a previous Greek plan, a recoverable amount of 326 million euros concerning 2006-2016, a shorter collection time of 20 years rather than 40 years as had been originally planned by Greek officials for this amount, as well as a dividend yield of 9.22 percent.

The prospective buyers are most likely to receive the Greek government’s final proposal next week as less than a fortnight now remains before a letter of guarantee submitted by Socar expires on October 31, following a one-month extension.

If all goes well, Socar will sign a final agreement with TAIPED, the State Privatization Fund, for a 66 percent stake of DESFA. A total of 400 million euros will be paid, of which 180 million euros will be channeled to the privatization fund, selling a 31 percent of DESFA, and 220 million euros to ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), selling 35 percent of the operator.

Then Socar will sign an agreement with Snam. According to sources, the Italian firm will acquire 30 percent of DESFA, which would reduce Socar’s stake to 36 percent from the 66 percent share originally agreed to through the international tender. The Greek State will hold the other 34 percent.

According to sources, Greek officials recently asked Snam officials to buy as much as 36 percent of DESFA. This would make the Italian firm the operator’s main shareholder. However, Snam officials reportedly responded by informing that the Italian firm intends to honor an agreement already signed with Socar on this issue.