SNAM’s wider ambitions raise consortium bid for DESFA to €535m

A consortium led by Italy’s Snam and including Spain’s Enagás Internacional and Belgium’s Fluxys, which, it has been revealed submitted a 535 million-euro second-round offer to an international tender offering 66 percent of DESFA, the natural gas grid operator, plans to invest in projects worth billions, if it is declared the sale’s prefered bidder.

These projects include links between DESFA’s natural gas network and that of Albania, whose development has already been awarded to Snam; the TAP pipeline running horizontally through Greece, Albania and across the Adriatic Sea to Italy, a project in which the Italian firm holds a 20 percent stake; as well as a prospective vertical axis to link the Bulgarian, Romanian, Serbian and Hungarian grids before reaching Austria’s Baumgarten gas hub.

The prospects offered by these projects spurred the Snam-led consortium to exceed by 30 to 35 million euros the value of DESFA’s 66 percent, estimated at roughly 500 million euros by two independent valuators commissioned by TAIPED, the state privatization fund, according to energypress sources.

As a result, the consortium comprised of Snam, Enagás and Fluxys appears likeliest to emerge victorious from the DESFA tender. A call by TAIPED for a further improvement to the second-round offers made cannot yet be ruled out.

Another Spanish entry, Regasificadora del Noroeste (Reganosa Asset Investments) joined forces with Romania’s Transgaz and the EBRD, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, for the other offer.

In a previous and unfinished sale attempt that also offered a 66 percent of DESFA, Azerbaijan’s Socar was declared the prefered bidder with a bid of 400 million euros. At the time, five years ago, when Greece’s country risk factor was higher, the operator’s 66 percent had been estimated to be worth 330 million euros.

DESFA’s current investment plan offers far more promise than it did five years earlier. Also, the operator’s current cash deposits, estimated at around 200 million euros, are considerably greater than they were during the previous sale effort.

Last August, Snam and Albania’s Albgaz signed an MoU to begin developing Albania’s infrastructure. This agreement is directly related to the development of Albania’s natural gas market and the TAP pipeline crossing the country.

TAP represents part of the Southern Corridor, stretching from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz 2 gas field and running through Georgia, Turkey, Greece and Albania before ending in Italy via the Adriatic Sea.

“The Italian firm is determined to gain DESFA control. Besides being a TAP shareholder and having taken on development of Albania’s natural gas network, Snam is also aiming to develop the vertical corridor linking Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Hungary,” an official who is closely following developments told energypress.

Though still at the planning stage, the vertical corridor has been classified a Project of Common Interest (PCI) by the EU.