Foreign institutional investors hold 50% of PPC for first time

Power utility PPC is entering a new era following yesterday’s completion of the corporation’s equity capital raise, which lowers the Greek State’s share in PPC below 51 percent, to 34 percent, for the first time in the utility’s 70-year history. Foreign institutional investors now hold an overall 50 percent stake in PPC, up from 27 percent, while domestic stakeholders have a 16 percent share.

Greek governments will no longer be able to do as they please with PPC. Issues concerning management, policies, strategic decisions and new hirings will now require the approval of foreign investors at the general shareholders’ meetings. The Greek State will remain influential with its 34 percent stake.

The corporation’s new equity line-up promises to transform PPC into a far more efficient corporation capable of achieving more favorable terms in capital markets.

The Covalis and Zimmer funds, among the new multinational stakeholders, specialize in utility investments. Wellington is regarded as a highly selective fund, more so than Blackrock, also part of PPC’s new equity line-up.

PPC easily achieved its 1.35 billion-euro target through the equity capital increase. The business plan, approved on the eve of the equity capital increase, envisions investments worth 8.4 billion euros between 2022 and 2026, but the amount is now seen rising to 9.3 billion euros. Investments are planned in renewables, networks, Balkan investments and waste management.

More than half the sum of new investments, or 55 percent, is planned for the RES sector, both in Greece and abroad. A further 20 percent is planned for distribution networks, 7 percent for conventional energy sources, 4 percent for waste-to-energy units and 3 percent for retail concerns.

Geographically, 85 percent of PPC’s new investments will be made in Greece, and 15 percent in the Balkans, primarily in Romania and Bulgaria.

PPC equity capital raise, early November, to reach €1.1-1.2bn

Power utility PPC’s imminent equity capital raise, approved at yesterday’s general shareholders’ meeting and now set for the board’s approval, expected late October or early November, will inject a sum estimated between 1.1 and 1.2 billion euros into the company’s coffers, estimates have indicated.

Over the next ten days or so, PPC will continue promoting the equity capital raise to funds and institutional investors.

The equity capital raise will increase the stake of private investors from 34 percent to 66 percent and offer the corporation fresh capital for its enormous investment plan.

To date, the value of requests submitted by investors ahead of the book building process, expected late this month, has reached nearly two billion euros, triple the equity capital raise’s initial sum of 750 million euros.

The PPC board plans to meet either October 29 or November 1 to decide on the level of the equity capital raise, seen exceeding one billion euros, and also to approve it.

The book building process, to immediately follow, is expected within the first ten days of November.

Small-scale company shareholders expressed complaints during yesterday’s session, troubled by the prospect of being completely overshadowed, but PPC’s administration responded by noting they were free to take part in the upcoming equity capital raise.

Major funds, including CVC Capital and Blackrock, are believed to have requested big stakes during lead-up talks with PPC officials, while the overall investor interest is high.

 

PPC planning equity capital increase, big funds involved

Power utility PPC will proceed with a 750 million-euro equity capital increase, effectively a partial privatization coming twenty years after a previous round at the bourse that will result in a decrease of privatization fund TAIPED’s current stake in the company from 51 percent to 34 percent.

The company administration’s step back for a minority share, plus management, aims to maximize the participation of foreign institutional investors, who, along with local investors, are expected to easily cover the equity capital increase’s financial demands.

US, British and northern European funds are among the interested parties, private talks held over the past six months, at least, have indicated, energypress sources informed.

Blackrock, EBRD, Fidelity, Apollo, Carmignac, Twenty Four AM, Bluecrest, Pictet, Union Investments, Sona Asset Management, Barings, Aperture, Saba Capital and Vontobel are funds that could be involved, it is believed.

The equity capital increase paves the way for the influx of capital that will contribute to PPC’s 8.4 billion-euro investment plan until 2026, currently ranked as the most ambitious in the Greek market.

Besides the installation of RES units with a total capacity of 8.1 GW, PPC also aims to branch out into the Balkans, beginning with projects in Romania and Bulgaria.

Romania’s RES market is growing at an annual rate of 8 percent, the country’s objective being to reach an installed capacity of 6 GW by 2030. Bulgaria’s RES market is growing at an even greater rate, 15 percent. The neighboring country’s objective is to have installed a further 3 GW by 2030.

At least four binding bids seen in HEDNO 49% privatization

Four consortiums have been established involving most, if not all, of the nine participants through to the second round of a sale offering a 49 percent stake in distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, a subsidiary of power utility PPC, indicating that at least four binding offers can be expected, when these are submitted within August, sources monitoring the procedure have informed.

All nine qualifiers have been assessing DEDDIE/HEDNO’s technical and financial data, the sources said.

At its most recent session, PPC’s board approved a plan for the transfer of the group’s electricity distribution assets to DEDDIE/HEDNO.

Also, PPC has commissioned professional services company Grant Thorton for the asset evaluation process, expected in August.

The privatization’s nine second-round qualifiers are:

ARDIAN Infrastructure Funds

BCI – British Columbia Investment Management Corporation

BLACKROCK – BlackRock Alternatives Management, L.L.C

CVC Capital Partners – Advisers Company, S.a.r.l

F2i – Fondi Italiani per le Infrastructure SGR S.p.A

First Sentier Investors EDIF III GP S.a.r.l

KKR – Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P.

MACQUARIE Group Limited

OHA – Oak Hill Advisors LLP

HEDNO suitors all real-money investors with long-term views

All nine qualifiers through to the second round of a tender offering a 49 percent stake of distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO possess extensive experience in infrastructure management around the world and are long-term, real-money investors.

The tender’s shortlist, announced yesterday, includes Blackrock, the world’s biggest investment fund, back in the Greek picture after subscribing to a bond issue staged last month by the operator’s parent company PPC, the power grid operator.

Blackrock has based these investment decisions on Greece’s economic prospects beyond the pandemic as well as common business principles shared with PPC.

The capital managed by the nine qualifiers is worth 10.2 trillion euros. More importantly, the qualifiers are backed by formidable profiles, their portfolios carrying investments in utilities, infrastructure and energy companies.

France’s Ardian, managing assets worth over 100 billion euros, Canadian investment corporation British Columbia Investments (BCI), handling a 100 billion-euro portfolio, the American funds Blackrock, managing assets worth 9 trillion dollars, CVC Capital Partners (120 bn), KKR (250 bn) and Oak Hill (50 bn), Italy’s infrastructure fund F21, as well as Australia’s Macquarie (420 bn) and First Sentier (180 bn) are all long-term investors.

BCI and Macquarie have jointly engaged in a series of takeovers, beginning in 2012 with German networks company Open Grids Europe, and following up, in 2014, with US electricity firm Cleco, and networks company Endeavour Energy in 2017. BCI also controls Chilean power distributor Transelec as well as Canada’s Corix.

Blackrock controls US corporation Hearthstone Utilities and the UK’s Kelas Midtream and Calisen PLC, active in smart meters.

America’s KKR acquired New Jersey water management company Bayonne Water and Wastewater Concession in 2012 and Middletown Water in 2014.

Macquarie’s portfolio includes Spain’s Viesgo, Germany’s Open Grid Europe, and the portfolio of First Sentier (previously First State) includes the UK’s Electricity North West and Anglian Water.

HEDNO 49% privatization shortlist set to be announced tomorrow

A short list of qualifiers through to the second and final round of a privatization offering a 49 percent stake of distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO is expected to be announced tomorrow, when endorsed by the board of the operator’s parent company PPC, the power utility.

The qualifiers will be given access to confidential data stored in the tender’s video data room.

Though PPC has not offered details on the first-round participants, informing only that the bidders, eleven in total, are strategic investors, network infrastructure operators and funds, banking officials have leaked their identities, revealing the turnout of leading international investors.

They include US fund Blackrock, the world’s biggest investment fund, as well as fellow American funds KKR, Oak Hill Advisors and CVC Capital Partners, the recent buyer of insurance company Ethniki Asfalistiki.

One of Europe’s biggest funds, France’s Ardian, two Australian funds, Macquarie and First Sentier, Italy’s infrastructure fund F21, Canadian investment corporation British Columbia Investments (BCI), Chinese consortium China South Power Grid – China Three Gorges, and fellow Chinese firm Guangzhou Power make up the other seven first-round entries.

DEDDIE/HEDNO’s new business plan, covering 2021 to 2024 and carrying investments totaling 3.5 billion euros, is a key driver behind the considerable interest, as is a yield rate of approximately 7 percent offered by the operator.

Standout features of the operator’s new business plan include an 850 million-euro project entailing the installation of 7.5 million digital power meters around the country, whose tender is nearing; an addition, to networks, of fiber optics for telecommunication and 5G services; as well as projects for undergrounding, upgrading and modernizing networks in anticipation of mass investments in RES units.

PPC bond issue, ESG-linked, attracts top international funds

Some of the world’s biggest investors are among the foreign institutional investors who participated in power utility PPC’s recent bond issue as well as a supplementary issue staged yesterday, through which the corporation raised a grand total of 775 million euros.

Participants included US fund Blackrock, managing capital worth nearly 8 trillion dollars, fellow American fund Fidelity, whose portfolio is worth 440 billion dollars, the UK’s Apollo, managing 455 billion dollars, and France’s Pictet, with an investment portfolio worth 689 billion dollars.

The turnout for PPC’s bond issues was dominated by real-money investors, or institutional investors handling enormous amounts of cash reserves for long-term investments in companies with solid prospects. Their clients are chiefly retirement funds as well as corporations looking to the future.

Information made available until now on PPC’s bond issues indicates that 70 percent of subscribers were from abroad and 30 percent domestic. Among the foreign investors, half are institutional and real-economy investors, many of these cross-Atlantic.

US and European investors participated in the issues with shares of close to 50 percent each, while investors from Australia and Asia represented about 5 percent of subscriptions.

PPC’s initial bond issue raised 650 million euros at a borrowing rate of 3.875 percent, while yesterday’s follow-up issue raised an additional 125 million euros at 3.67 percent.

Bond issues linked with ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) terms, as was the case with PPC’s two issues, are in high demand, internationally.

Through its issues, five-year bonds maturing in 2026, PPC has committed to a 40 percent reduction of CO2 emissions, from 23.1 million tons in 2019 to 13.9 million tons by 2022. If this target is not achieved, 50 basis points will be added to the yield.

Operator DEDDIE 49% sale first-round bids submitted today

State-controlled power utility PPC and the government will be hoping today’s first-round, non-binding deadline for expression of interest in the 49 percent sale of the utility’s subsidiary DEDDIE/HEDNO, the distribution network operator, can attract a solid turnout of formidable bidders.

An onslaught of criticism against DEDDIE/HEDNO over the past few days following widespread power outages caused by Medea, as the extreme weather system was dubbed, certainly has not been good for the operator’s reputation.

On the other hand, the network’s deficiencies, exposed by extensive weather-related damages in the wider Athens area, lends tremendous support to the need of a powerful investor ready to finance the network’s badly needed upgrade, expected to cost 3.5 billion euros.

Expectations of a solid investor turnout have been high in the lead-up to today’s first-round deadline. PPC plans to announce this sale’s first round participants during the day.

Many prominent funds have shown interest in the sale but the identities of those that will follow through and participate have remained unclear. It also remains unclear if any of these funds will establish partnerships – for the DEDDDIE/HEDNO sale – with European network operators.

A market test staged in December, as well as contact with interested parties, has indicated that the American funds KKR and Blackrock, Australia’s Macquarie Group, and France’s Ardian, could participate in the sale.

The managerial rights to be attached to the minority 49 percent stake will be bolstered to not block potential buyers from crucial decisions.

DEDDIE/HEDNO possesses a regulated asset base worth over 3 billion euros, networks totaling 242,000 km in length, 240 high-voltage substations, 163 low-voltage substations, a 5,800-member workforce, and a client base numbering 7.5 million.

The company caters to annual demand of 43.194 TWh and 57,752 RES units with a total capacity of 3,926 MW.

Two funds submit DEDDIE interest ahead of sale’s preliminary deadline

Two undisclosed funds have jumped the gun to submit non-binding, first-round expressions of interest for the sale of a 49 percent stake in distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO three days before a February 19 deadline, highlighting the heightened level of buyer interest that surrounds this privatization.

European and US investment teams, more so than network operators, have shown particular interest in the DEDDIE/HEDNO sale during its lead-up.

A market test in December revealed that 19 potential bidders include New York-based Blackrock, the world’ biggest investment fund, managing capital worth 7.8 trillion dollars; American giant KKR, handling 220 billion dollars; as well as French fund Ardian, one of Europe’s most dynamic, with involvement in over 150 enterprises and capital management worth more than 100 billion dollars.

Though it remains unknown if any of the aforementioned players were early birds, it has become very clear that funds will play a big role in this sale.

In an effort to add to the sale’s appeal, power utility PPC, DEDDIE/HEDNO’s parent company, has decided to bolster the 49 percent minority rights by offering potential buyers equal powers with PPC over crucial network operator decisions.

Between four and seven investment teams have displayed the greatest level of interest in the DEDDIE/HEDNO sale. Some of these teams are believed to be engaged in negotiations to establish new formations for this sale.

Four teams, backed by funds, display strong DEDDIE interest

Prospective bidders considering power utility PPC’s sale of a 49 percent stake in subsidiary firm DEDDIE/HEDNO, the distribution network operator, have flooded the seller with a stream of enquiries ahead of a February 19 deadline for non-binding expressions of interest.

Interested parties had until February 5 to make enquiries before they can officially express interest in the sale later this month.

Interest in the distribution network operator is definitely strong. Questions received at PPC indicate that four investment teams, with the involvement of major funds, are maintaining the strongest interest in the DEDDIE/HEDNO sale.

Prospective buyers lodged enquiries on a range of issues, including the sale’s rules for funds, whether participating funds will need to submit their equity line-ups in full detail, and if supporting documents can be submitted in languages other than English.

A market test for the upcoming partial privatization staged by Goldman Sachs in December disclosed that interested parties include New York-based Blackrock, the world’s biggest investment fund managing capital worth 7.8 trillion dollars, US giant KKR, backed by capital worth 220 billion euros, as well as French fund Ardian, one of Europe’s strongest, linked with over 150 enterprises and capital management worth more than 100 billion dollars.

In an attempt to strengthen the sale’s appeal, PPC will guarantee the strategic investor holding a 49 percent stake in DEDDIE/HEDNO no obstacles in decisions concerning crucial matters.

However, the minority rights for DEDDIE/HEDNO’s prospective 49 percent stakeholder will not be as strong as they are for power grid operator IPTO’s Chinese strategic partner SGCC. DEDDIE/HEDNO will retain the operator’s managerial control.

Authorities had considered a two-stage sale of DEDDIE/HEDNO’s 49 percent, beginning with a stake of about 30 percent and a further 19 percent at a latter date, when market conditions may have improved, before opting for a one-off procedure.

DEDDIE sale preliminary deadline near, China’s SGCC out of contention

Prominent US funds such as Blackrock and KKR, European funds, including Ardian, as well as distribution network operators, primarily from Europe’s south, and central Europe, are among 19 likely participants, to date, in power utility PPC’s sale of a 49 percent stake in subsidiary DEDDIE/HEDNO, the distribution network operator.

An approaching expression-of-interest deadline set by PPC expires on January 29. In the lead-up, some 70 possible investors have been approached by three consultants, Goldman Sachs, Eurobank and Grant Thornton, commissioned by the power utility for the DEDDIE/HEDNO sale.

State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) cannot take part in the sale as its strategic partnership with Greek power grid operator IPTO, in which the Chinese company holds a 24 percent stake, would represent a breach of conflicting-interest rules.

SGCC recently made clear an interest to further develop its presence in the Greek electricity market by either increasing its IPTO stake or pursuing a share in DEDDIE.

Strong market test turnout for DEDDIE sale, 18 players in all

A total of 18 prospective bidders have taken part in a market test staged by Goldman Sachs for power utility PPC’s forthcoming sale of a 49 percent stake in subsidiary firm DEDDIE/HEDNO, the distribution network operator.

The list, forwarded by Goldman Sachs to PPC, includes investors already familiar to the Greek market such as US firm Blackrock, specializing in transportation and energy infrastructure long-term investments; prominent infrastructure funds; as well as many European operators.

France’s Engie and Italy’s Enel, both often linked with the DEDDIE/HEDNO sale, were not among the 18 market test participants, sources informed.

Interestingly, no previous market test staged to gauge interest in the prospective sale of any Greek State asset has generated such a strong turnout.

Authorities behind DEDDIE/HEDNO’s partial privatization hope this more than promising response for the market test will result in intense bidding competition and a higher sale price.

A clear picture on the number and identity of the sale’s participants will become apparent on January 29, the deadline for the procedure’s first round official expressions of interest.

Officials have attributed the strong market test interest to five key factors: the operator’s new regulatory framework; an elevated WACC level of 6.7 percent for 2021 to 2024, well over levels of between 2.5 and 3 percent offered by other European operators; strong confidence in the governance of the country, pivotal for long-term investments; good timing, as, at present, no other network operator in Europe is up for sale; and a massive accumulation of global capital currently available for investment as a result of numerous lockdowns imposed in many parts of the world since March.

The Greek government will aim to complete DEDDIE/HEDNO’s partial privatization in the first half of 2021.

 

Italy’s Snam, Italgas face off in DEPA Infrastructure sale

Snam, Italy’s gas grid operator, and Italgas, the neighboring country’s biggest natural gas distribution company, have emerged as rivals, despite sharing common interests, in a Greek privatization offering a full stake in DEPA Infrastructure, a new entity formed by Greece’s gas utility DEPA.

The Snam group holds a 13.5 percent stake in Italgas. Also, the two companies have a common key shareholder, CDP Reti, holding a 28.98 percent stake in Snam and a 26.05 percent share of Italgas.

The showdown between Snam and Italgas could end up leaving both bidders out of the DEPA Infrastructure privatization, whose deadline for first-round expressions of interest expires today following a slight extension.

The participation of both players in the DEPA Infrastructure privatization would represent a violation of the sale’s terms, privatization fund TAIPED has already pointed out following a related query.

Fully aware of the situation, Snam has sought a solution. The Italian firm could form another consortium as it had done for the sale of Greek gas grid operator DESFA. Snam led a consortium, Senfluga, joined by Fluxys and Enagas, for the acquisition of a 66 percent stake of DESFA.

Two major US funds, KKR and Blackrock, as well as Australia’s Macquarie, are among the field of players tipped to submit expressions of interest today. Two other funds, both undisclosed, one from China, the other from the Middle East, could also participate. Additional entries have not been ruled out.

Strong turnout seen for DEPA Infrastructure sale tomorrow

A solid build-up to tomorrow’s first-round deadline for a tender offering a full stake in DEPA Infrastructure, a new entity formed by gas utility DEPA, has indicated at least ten European operators as well as funds from beyond the continent will submit expressions of interest.

Snam, Fluxys, Enagas, Italgas, two major US funds, KKR and Blackrock, as well as Australia’s Macquarie, are among the field of players tipped to turn up.

Two undisclosed funds, one from China, the other from the Middle East, are also believed to be among the prospective bidders.

Candidates see DEPA Infrastructure’s investment plan as an opportunity for prospective synergies. Budgeted at 400 million euros, it envisions the development of a series of pipeline projects and other infrastructure in the wider southeast European region over the next five years.

Snam, Fluxys and Enagas, who formed a consortium named Senfluga to acquire a 66 percent of Greek gas grid operator DESFA in 2018, are expected to move independently for the DEPA Infrastructure tender’s first round, fearing antitrust regulations, before regrouping later on.

DEPA Infrastructure sale luring bidders, deadline Friday

The government and privatization fund TAIPED are expecting strong investor interest in the full sale of gas utility DEPA’s new entity DEPA Infrastructure, a procedure whose deadline for non-binding expression of interest expires this Friday at 5pm.

Authorities will not offer a deadline extension despite requests for more time, sources informed.

Italy’s Italgas, France’s Engie, Spain’s Reganosa as well as two major US funds, KKR and Blackrock, and, possibly, Australia’s Macquarie, are believed to be among the field of players eyeing the DEPA Infrastructure privatization. Senfluga, a consortium made up of Greek gas grid operator DESFA shareholders, is also considering participating in what should be a last-minute decision following related preparations.

Italgas, Italy’s biggest distribution network operator and third biggest in Europe, is believed to have held talks with fellow Italian company Eni for the acquisition of a 49 percent stake of gas distributor EDA Thess, covering the Thessaloniki and Thessaly areas. This stake is currently held by Eni subsidiary Eni Gas e Luce.

France’s Engie, also eyeing other opportunities in the Greek market, has partnered with Energean Oil & Gas and GEK-Terna with the intention of jointly bidding for an underground gas storage facility to be developed at a depleted offshore gas field in the south Kavala region.

TAIPED, the privatization fund, is offering DEPA’s 65 percent share in DEPA Infrastructure while Hellenic Petroleum ELPE is selling its 35 percent stake.