Solid bidder turnout for DEDA east Macedonia, Thrace gas network tenders

Five construction companies and one consortium have taken part in the first two tenders staged by gas distributor DEDA for the development of gas distribution networks in Xanthi/Drama and Alexandroupoli/Komotini, respectively, in Greece’s north and northeast.

Key Greek construction firms such as Aktor, Avax and Intracom were among the bidders, sources informed. Newcomers and older companies also took part in the tenders, totaling 33.4 million euros, including Edil Hellas, Ergo ATE and Vermion ATEE-Sourla Bros ATEBE.

The level of participation on the two tenders was described as satisfactory by DEDA’s managing director Marios Tsakas and a vote of confidence for the gas company’s ambitious plans to broaden the coverage of networks in provincial Greece.

DEDA covers all parts of Greece not represented by fellow DEPA Infrastructure subsidiaries EDA Attiki, covering the wider Athens area, and EDA THES, covering Thessaloniki and Thessaly.

Project contracts with winning bidders could be signed by the end of the year so that construction work of the new networks can begin early in 2021 in all four provincial cities, sources said.

Avax, Aktor, Ergo ATE, Edil Hellas, Vermion ATEE-Sourla Bros ATEBE and Intracom took part in the DEDA tender for the development of gas networks in the Xanthi and Drama areas, budgeted at 17.1 million euros.

Avax, Aktor, Ergo ATE, Edil Hellas and Intracom also took part in the Alexandroupoli/Komotini tender, budgeted at 16.3 million euros.

The two regional projects are being funded by own funds, loans and business development funds for the east Macedonia and Thrace regions.

Gas distribution networks totaling at least 200 kilometers for 4,066 connections concerning all gas consumer categories by 2024 are planned for the Xanthi and Drama areas.

As for the Alexandroupoli and Komotini areas, the DEDA plan entails construction of gas distribution networks totaling 170 kilometers for at least 5,279 connections by 2024.

DEDA plans to launch new tenders next month for construction of gas networks in Orestiada and Kavala, northern Greece, sources said.

Overall, the new gas distribution networks planned by DEDA in the six provincial cities are budgeted at 56.6 million euros, plus 24% VAT, and will provide a total of 496,000 kilometers of mid and low-pressure gas supply lines for at least 15,000 consumer connections of all categories.

DEDA is also planning tenders next month for gas network projects in central Greece and the central Macedonia region.

RAE set to permit gas link fee discounts after initial hesitation

Following initial hesitation, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, appears set to permit distribution network connection fee discounts offered by natural gas distributors to attract new customer. But this approval will only apply to areas where gas market penetration levels remain low.

RAE has hesitated to approve such discounts offered by gas utility DEPA’s subsidiaries EDA Attiki, EDA Thess and DEDA – the three gas distributors covering the wider Athens area, Thessaloniki-Thessaly and rest of Greece, respectively – fearing the special offers could be regarded as a form of state aid by the European Commission’s competition officials.

However, DEPA Infrastructure, a new DEPA entity now controlling these three gas distribution subsidiaries, recently warned that RAE’s delays are undermining its privatization procedure. This warning was highlighted in a letter to the authority that was also shared with privatization fund TAIPED and the energy ministry.

RAE’s delay in endorsing EDA tariffs for 2019 to 2022 has consequently also placed the gas company’s development plan in turmoil, DEPA Infrastructure pointed out in the letter.

RAE has overcome its concerns and is now preparing to endorse the tariffs. The authority will also permit connection fee discounts in areas where natural gas market penetration levels do not exceed 25 percent.

In areas where natural gas market penetration levels are exceeded but not greater than 75 percent, RAE will permit connection fee discounts of up to 90 percent in 2022, 80 percent in 2023, 70 percent in 2024 and 60 percent in 2025.

The authority will not endorse any connection fee discounts for municipalities where natural gas market penetration levels exceed 75 percent.

 

DEPA Comm VDR open; 5-year stay for Infrastructure buyer

The video data room for the privatization procedure of DEPA Commercial, one of two new gas utility DEPA entities placed for sale, is now open to prospective bidders, but initial information made available is limited to non-financial details.

Financial details on DEPA Commercial will be made available as a second step to all consultants representing the potential buyers, while a third and final stage will follow to conditionally offer bidders confidential information in person at the DEPA headquarters.

As previously reported, the second-round, binding-bids deadline for the DEPA Commercial sale, offering investors a 65 percent stake, has been extended to March, 2021.

The field of second-round qualifiers is comprised of two partnerships, Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) with Edison and power utility PPC with Motor Oil Hellas, plus Mytilineos, TERNA, the Copelouzos group, Shell, and the Swiss-based MET Group.

As for DEPA Infrastructure, the other new DEPA entity up for sale, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis is preparing a legislative revision that will require the winning bidder to retain its company shares for a period of at least five years.

This condition will also apply for the DEPA Infrastructure subsidiaries EDA Attiki, EDA Thess and DEDA, the gas distributors covering the wider Athens area, Thessaloniki-Thessaly and rest of Greece, respectively. DEPA fully owns DEDA and EDA Attiki and holds a 51 percent stake in EDA Thess.

The DEPA Infrastructure binding-bids deadline has also been extended to the end of February, 2021. Italgas, EPH, First State Investments, KKR, Macquarie and Sino-CEEF have qualified for the final round.

 

RAE issues undermining DEPA Infrastructure privatization

Delays, instability and flawed intervention by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, on important operating issues concerning gas utility DEPA’s subsidiaries EDA Attiki, EDA Thess and DEDA – the three distributors covering the wider Athens area, Thessaloniki-Thessaly and rest of Greece, respectively – are undermining the privatization procedure for DEPA Infrastructure, a new DEPA entity placed for sale, DEPA Infrastructure has warned in a letter to the authority.

In the letter, also forwarded to privatization fund TAIPED and the energy ministry, DEPA Infrastructure complains of a RAE delay in endorsing EDA tariffs for 2019 to 2022, which has consequently placed the gas company’s development plan in turmoil.

Besides not having reached a decision on gas distribution pricing policy, the authority has changed the WACC level three times since last year, including recently, which has negatively impacted the yields of DEPA subsidiary investments, sources noted.

Also, RAE regards initiatives taken by the three gas distributors to attract more consumers to the natural gas market as a form of state aid, DEPA Infrastructure protests in the letter, referring to distribution network connection fee discounts offered by the distributors, as well as subsidy support for natural gas system installations.

Any moves to curb these initiatives promoting gas usage would derail the natural gas sector’s energy-mix penetration target for 2030, as specified in the National Energy and Climate Plan, DEPA Infrastructure contends.

These unfavorable conditions threaten to delay the DEPA Infrastructure privatization, company sources stressed.

The sale procedure’s video data room is still lacking vital information for prospective bidders, who could begin seeing the DEPA Infrastructure privatization as a high-risk investment, the sources noted, adding that WACC level reductions will ultimately reduce the market value of DEPA Infrastructure and the subsidiaries.

DEPA Commercial, DEPA Infrastructure binding-bid deadlines extended

The second-round, binding-bid deadlines for the privatizations of gas utility DEPA’s two new entities, DEPA Commercial and DEPA Infrastructure, have once again been reset for latter dates despite the government’s recent approval of privatization fund TAIPED’s revised Asset Development Plan.

According to sources, the new binding-bids deadline for DEPA Commercial, a privatization expected to draw major interest as a result of the company’s strong market standing and potential, has been reset for March, instead of December.

According to some sources, TAIPED wants to include improved DEPA Commercial results anticipated for the third quarter into the sale’s video data room, whose data will be assessed by prospective bidders once they sign confidentiality agreements.

TAIPED will, as a result, aim to achieve a higher selling price for DEPA Commercial, which has recaptured market share losses.

Other sources insist the rescheduled date is linked to an uncertainty felt by investors over DEPA’s ongoing legal dispute with ELFE (Hellenic Fertilizers and Chemicals).

A DEPA appeal of a court verdict that disapproved the utility’s pricing policy for ELFE is scheduled to take place in January, while a ruling will be delivered even later. Investors want clarity on this front before they can submit binding bids.

DEPA Infrastructure’s deadline for binding bids has now been rescheduled for February instead of January.

Pundits have attributed this development to a failure by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, to finalize a gas distribution network pricing policy by September, as had been planned. The authority has yet to offer a new date for the new network pricing policy, sources said.

Prospective bidders consider this pricing detail crucial as it determines the earnings level of DEPA Infrastructure.

 

DEPA Commercial VDR expected to open for bidders by end of week

A virtual data room offering financial and technical information concerning the privatization of DEPA Commercial, an offshoot of gas utility DEPA, will be opened to prospective bidders by the end of this week, sources have informed.

A final meeting between DEPA Commercial’s administration and privatization fund TAIPED may be staged today or tomorrow before the VDR is opened up for investors.

The sale of DEPA Commercial, expected to be fiercely contested by the country’s major energy players, should produce a result by December, according to an updated TAIPED schedule for its Asset Development Plan. This plan has already been approved by KYSOIP, the Government Council for Economic Policy.

A VDR for DEPA’s other privatization, DEPA Infrastracture, was opened in late August. Despite its earlier launch, binding offers are expected sooner for DEPA Commercial, whose conclusion has been scheduled for January, 2021 by TAIPED.

Well-informed sources have attributed this differing pace of schedules to a more complex sale procedure demanded for DEPA Infrastructure, requiring intervention by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy. In addition, EU authorities will need to provide certification, needed for transfers of distribution networks and energy transmission systems.

For the time being, all of the country’s energy players are expected to gain access into the DEPA Commercial VDR as a first step before deciding on whether to place binding bids. Partnerships could be sought.

 

 

 

Clearer framework needed for new gas distribution networks

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has identified the need for clear-cut, objective terms, based on technocratic criteria, for an improved strategy to help take natural gas to regions around the country without distribution network access at present.

Approval procedures for development plans submitted by gas distribution companies are currently in progress, and, in addition, the distribution sector is being restructured.

The energy ministry has made clear it wants a consistent and modern framework to facilitate the development of new distribution networks in as many parts of Greece as possible, a government objective.

Gas sector conditions also need to be made as clear as possible ahead of the privatization of DEPA Infrastructure, owning gas distributor EDA Attiki, servicing the wider Athens area; 51 percent of EDA Thess, covering the Thessaloniki area; and DEDA, distributing to all other regions not serviced by the two aforementioned firms.

RAE is now preparing a new framework concerning the appraisal and approval of development plans by gas distribution companies, as well as a formula for their earnings.

 

 

 

DEPA Infrastructure VDR open, DEPA Commercial data soon

A virtual data room has just been opened for the six bidding teams preparing to make second-round offers in the privatization of gas company DEPA Infrastracture, an offshoot of gas utility DEPA.

Czech company EPH, Italy’s Italgas, the Australian investment funds First State Investments and Macquarie, US firm KKR and China’s Sino-CEEF & Shanghai Dazhong Public Utilities now have access to all relevant data concerning the DEPA Infrastructure sale.

Another VDR is expected to be opened within the next few days for bidders participating in the privatization of DEPA Commercial, DEPA’s other entity up for sale.

The participants in this sale, seven entries in total, are: Motor Oil Hellas-PPC, ELPE-Edison, Mytilineos, GEK-TERNA, the Copelouzos group, Dutch company Shell and the Swiss-based MET Group.

VDR information for the DEPA Commercial sale will be made available over three phases as a protective measure intended to ensure competition. The first phase, offering non-sensitive data, will be open for all. Access to VDR information during the second stage, offering sensitive data, will be restricted to consultants. Bidders will be offered conditional access to confidential information in the third phase.

Greece’s privatization fund TAIPED is aiming to declare preferred bidders for both sales in the final quarter of this year. Market officials, however, believe this is more likely to occur in the first quarter of 2021.

DEPA Commercial bidders are allowed to team up and establish consortiums but partnerships for the DEPA Infrastructure sale are not permitted.

Bidders participating in the DEPA Commercial sale are mainly eyeing the company’s prized asset, retail gas supplier and subsidiary Fysiko Aerio Attikis, covering the wider Athens area. This company already serves close to 400,000 households and 10,000 businesses.

DEPA sales progressing, DEPA Infrastructure VDR in a fortnight

Gas utility DEPA’s double privatization effort involving DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Trade appears to be making progress.

The sale’s authorities expect to make accessible a DEPA Infrastructure video data room to prospective buyers between late June and early July. Then, approximately a month later, once a shortlist of final-round qualifiers has been announced, authorities plan to also open a VDR for DEPA Trade.

Meanwhile, DEPA has agreed to a new pricing formula with Russian supplier Gazprom, sources have informed.

The current pricing formula, indexing 40 percent of supply to the Dutch gas trading platform TTF, one of Europe’s biggest hubs, and 60 percent to oil prices, will be reversed.

DEPA and Gazprom also appear to have reached an agreement on an amount the Greek utility will need to pay its Russian supplier for natural gas not absorbed in 2019. A take-or-pay clause is included in their supply contract.

DEPA will pay a little over 40 million euros, well below a figure of 130,000 million euros believed to have been initially tabled. The take-or-pay amount that may result for 2020 remains to be discussed.

DEPA’s agreement with Gazprom is particularly significant for the prospects of the DEPA Trade privatization, as besides its retail gas market presence, this company will also pitch the details of its supply contracts as an important company asset.

DEPA Trade’s list of nine first-round bidders include Shell, which had sold its 49 percent share in EPA Attiki and EDA Attiki to DEPA in 2018 but is again interested in reentering the Greek gas market. The other bidders are: fellow-Dutch company Vitol; Qatar’s Power Globe; Met Holding, a subsidiary of Hungarian group MOL; C.G GAS; as well as four Greek bidders, Motor Oil Hellas with power utility PPC, a surprise partnership; Gek Terna; ELPE-Edison; and Mytilineos.

 

DEPA Trade sale short list this month, sooner than expected

Privatization fund TAIPED is expected to announce its short list of final-round qualifiers in a tender offering a stake of at least 65 percent, possibly even 100 percent, of DEPA Trade – a new entity formed by gas utility DEPA as part of its privatization – within the next few weeks, far sooner than expected.

Deteriorated international investment conditions have prompted fears of a slower sale procedure.

The privatization fund, now close to finalizing its appraisals of nine first-round bids, has requested clarification from participants.

The DEPA Trade privatization was expected to drag well behind that of DEPA Infrastructure, seen as a lower-risk sale effort offering investors regulated earnings, but the two privatization efforts now appear likely to move ahead almost concurrently, or a few weeks apart.

A list of six final-round qualifiers in the DEPA Infrastructure sale was announced a week ago. Authorities are aiming to complete this sale towards the end of the year.

As for DEPA Trade, this entity promises the winning bidder an immediate advantage in Greece’s natural gas market as more than 200,000 customers around the country will be gained.

DEPA Trade’s wholesale gas trading activity is another appealing factor, despite the fact that it shrunk to 40 percent of the market’s total last year, as the growing southeast European market offers huge potential.

DEPA Trade’s nine first-round bidders are: C.G GAS LIMITED; MET HOLDING AG; POWER GLOBE LLC; SHELL GAS B.V.; VITOL HOLDING B.V.; GEK TERNA; HELLENIC PETROLEUM (ELPE) & EDISON INTERNATIONAL HOLDING N.V. consortium; MOTOR OIL HELLAS & GREEK POWER UTILITY PPC (consortium); MYTILINEOS.

 

DESFA trio may return to DEPA Infrastructure sale, Italgas link-up seen

Italgas, one of six bidders through to the second round of a tender offering DEPA Infrastructure, a new entity established by gas utility DEPA as part of its privatization, intends to join forces with Snam, Fluxys and Enagas, the three members of the Senfluga consortium that acquired a 66 percent of Greek gas grid operator DESFA late in 2018.

The trio of companies controlling DESFA had expressed first-round interest in the DEPA Infrastructure sale but failed to show up for the procedure’s second round.

Snam, head of the Senfluga consortium with a 60 percent stake, is associated with Italgas as it has held a 13.5 percent stake since 2016.

Italgas is widely tipped to emerge victorious in the DEPA Infrastructure sale.

Besides Italgas, the five other qualifiers through to the second round of the DEPA Infrastructure sale are: EP Investment Advisors; First State Investments (European Diversified Infrastructure Fund II); KKR (KKR Global Infrastructure Investors III L.P.); Macquarie (MEIF 6 DI Holdings); and the Sino-Cee Fund & Shanghai Dazhong Public Utilities consortium.

Once they have signed confidentiality agreements, the six qualifiers will receive second-round texts and access to a virtual data room hosting DEPA Infrastructure data and information.

DEPA Infrastructure privatization shortlist minus some initial candidates

Fewer than nine of the initial candidates expressing interest in the sale of DEPA Infrastructure, a new entity formed by gas utility DEPA as part of its privatization, will make the second round’s short list, which could be announced early next week by the privatization fund TAIPED, energypress sources informed.

One or two funds that had emerged for the first round will not remain contenders as a result of the pandemic’s impact on their investment plans, representatives have informed Greek privatization authorities.

Also,  another candidate not fulfilling qualification criteria will be excluded from the next round, sources said.

A shortening of the initial list of candidates is normal for any sale, privatization officials noted, stressing there is no reason for concern about the DEPA Infrastructure sale.

DEPA Infrastructure, backed by a fixed WACC rate of between 7 and 8 percent, one of Europe’s highest in this sector, is regarded as one of Greece’s most secure privatization prospects, local officials noted.

Investors will be offered a full 100 percent stake in the company.

The privatization’s initial list of nine candidates is comprised of: ANTIN INFRASTRUCTURE PARTNERS SAS; CHINA RESOURCES GAS (HONG KONG) INVESTMENT LIMITED; EP INVESTMENT ADVISORS; FIRST STATE INVESTMENTS (European Diversified Infrastructure Fund II); ISQUARED CAPITAL ADVISORS (UK) LLP; ITALGAS SpA; KKR (KKR Global Infrastructure Investors III L.P.); MAQOUARIE (MEIF 6 DI HOLDINGS); SINO-CEE FUND & SHANGHAI DAZHONG PUBLIC UTILITIES (GROUP) Co., Ltd.

 

DEPA Trade, Infrastructure sales delayed for after summer

The final rounds of privatization procedures for DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Trade, two new entities formed by gas utility DEPA to facilitate its sale, will be postponed until after summer as a result of the pandemic’s impact on global economic activity and investments, pressuring asset values, sources have informed.

Investors are being offered the Greek State’s 65 percent stake and Hellenic Petroleum ELPE’s 35 percent share of DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Trade.

However, the privatization fund TAIPED, combining its efforts with the energy ministry and RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, intends to press ahead with a June launch of a privatization procedure for a depleted offshore gas field south of Kavala planned to be developed as an underground gas storage facility.

An appraisal of first-round offers submitted by nine investment teams for DEPA Infrastructure and that many more for DEPA Trade is expected to be completed within June.

Barring unexpected developments, TAIPED should announce its list of finalists for both sales next month. This will be followed by the opening of a virtual data room facilitating due diligence procedures for both companies.

DEDA to challenge RAE removal of 8 cities from 5-year development plan

Gas distributor DEDA is examining legal options in order to challenge a decision by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, to remove the entire Peloponnese and the provincial cities of Veria and Giannitsa from the distributor’s five-year development plan covering 2020 to 2024.

The authority excluded these areas as estimated completion dates for projects exceeded deadlines by more than 18 months.

At the very least, DEDA is expected to ask RAE to reconsider its decisions and request further details concerning the exclusion of a total of eight cities from its five-year development plan.

Besides Veria and Giannitsa, both in the north, RAE removed six Peloponnesian towns, Tripoli, Corinth, Argos, Nafplio, Kalamata and Sparti, from DEDA’s development plan.

DEDA, now under the wings of DEPA Infrastructure, a new entity formed by gas utility DEPA ahead of its privatization, covers areas not served by EDA Attiki (wider Athens) and EDA Thess (Thessaloniki and Thessaly).

It remains unclear whether DEDA will publish the shortened five-year plan in the government gazette. Failure to do so would delay procedures for the remainder of projects on the list, including the setting of customer tariffs. The company’s administration wants to avoid such delays.

 

DEPA Infrastructure bidder shortlist expected end of month

A shortlist of second-round bidders for DEPA Infrastructure, a new entity formed by gas utility DEPA ahead of its privatization, is anticipated towards the end of May, while the cut for DEPA Trade bidders, the utility’s other new division being privatized, could be announced a month later, government sources have informed.

DEPA Infrastructure, whose earnings are regulated by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, is less vulnerable to the impact of the pandemic, which is not the case for DEPA Trade, fully exposed to market forces.

“We will not rush, for any reason, to take action that would lead us to much lower offers than the prices we are seeking,” Aris Xenofos, president of the privatization fund TAIPED, told Reuters yesterday.

Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC) levels set for network operators by RAE before the coronavirus crisis emerged offer protection to certain privatizations against the global economic uncertainty, government sources told energypress.

Though absolute safety can never be assured, DEPA Infrastructure, whose WACC level has been set at around 7 to 8 percent, is less susceptible to financial volatility compared to other companies on Greece’s privatization list.

DEPA Trade, Hellenic Petroleum ELPE, and power grid operator IPTO – its earnings are regulated but the company is listed through IPTO (ADMIE) Holding – are all far less resilient.

Gas distributor DEDA’s 5-year development plan minus 8 cities

Gas distribution network projects in eight provincial cities have been removed from gas distributor DEDA’s five-year development plan approved by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, as their estimated completion dates exceeded deadlines by more than 18 months.

Projects in a total of six Peloponnesian cities as well as northern Greece’s Veria and Giannitsa had been included in the previous version of the DEDA development plan, covering 2020 to 2024.

DEDA, now under the wings of DEPA Infrastructure, a new entity formed by gas utility DEPA ahead of its privatization, distributes to Greece’s areas not served by EDA Attiki (wider Athens) and EDA Thess (Thessaloniki and Thessaly).

According to DEDA’s initial five-year plan, Tripoli, Corinth, Argos and Nafplio, all in the Peloponnese, were planned to gain network infrastructure enabling gas supply via a high-pressure pipeline operated by gas grid operator DESFA.

The plan also entailed the development of infrastructure for LNG supply from DESFA’s Revythoussa terminal, close to Athens, to the Peloponnesian cities Kalamata and Sparti.

Projects for CNG supply to Veria and Giannitsa in the country’s north were also excluded by RAE from the five-year DEDA plan it approved.

 

‘Firm steps for privatizations but pandemic’s impact considered’

Decisive steps are being taken for Greece’s energy-sector privatizations, representing two thirds of the country’s overall privatization program, but the pandemic’s impact on international markets will not be neglected, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis has pointed out in an interview with Greek daily To Ethnos.

There is no need to rush a plan to reduce the Greek State’s stake in Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) as this sale is not one of restructuring character, the minister noted.

A government decision to sell stakes in DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Trade, two new entities emerging from a split at gas utility DEPA, is moving ahead as planned, Hatzidakis informed.

First steps have been taken to reduce, below 51 percent, the Greek State’s share in power grid operator IPTO, “but this does not mean we will proceed tomorrow morning,” he said.

State-controlled power utility PPC is preparing terms of an international tender for the sale of at least 49 percent of distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, a subsidiary, the minister said. This procedure is scheduled to commence in the third quarter of this year, he added.

DEPA Infrastructure board soon, bidders shortlist in June

Corporate revisions at gas utility DEPA, shaped by legislation ratified in December, have just about been completed ahead of the enterprise’s privatization plan.

All that remains, according to sources, is an announcement of the board members at DEPA Infrastructure, one of the new corporate entities established as part of the utility’s transformation.

This announcement is expected to be made within the next one or two weeks. DEPA Infrastructure will be established as an entirely new company with its own tax file number.

DEPA Trade, another new entity emerging from the wider corporate revision, will succeed the existing DEPA utility.

The utility’s other division, DEPA International Projects will, for the time being, remain a subsidiary of DEPA Trade before it is broken away 60 days prior to the submission of bids for its parent company.

Then, as the final step of its process, DEPA International Projects will be merged with EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, the government has announced.

Nine bidding teams that have expressed official interest for DEPA Infrastructure are currently providing data to the privatization fund TAIPED, expected to shortlist candidates around June, sources estimate.

Meanwhile, DEPA is preparing its video data room as well as financial and technical reports that will be examined and evaluated by investors before they shape their bids. DEPA is expected to complete these reports in May.

Ministry seeking to reignite stalled energy sector initiatives

The energy ministry is seeking to resume coronavirus-interrupted actions on a number of fronts, which, prior to the crisis, were expected to lead to major energy sector changes in 2020. These include the decarbonization effort, privatizations, green-energy infrastructure investments and a launch of the energy exchange.

The ministry’s strategic plan aiming to inject new impetus into these initiatives includes market liquidity protection through support mechanisms and bank loans for operators and key market players such as power utility PPC.

Efforts will also be made to accelerate decarbonization initiatives and keep alive pending energy sector privatizations, including those of gas utility DEPA’s two new entities, DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Trade; the prospective sale of a 49 percent stake of distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, a PPC subsidiary; as well as an underground gas storage facility at a depleted offshore gas field south of Kavala.

Green energy investments, a key party of Greece’s revised and more ambitious National Energy Climate Plan, are expected to regain dynamic momentum as of 2021, following this year’s pandemic-induced disruption.

This is also the case for major infrastructure projects such as power grid operator IPTO’s grid interconnections for Crete, the south, west and north Cyclades and other areas. These interconnection projects require investments totaling more than 4 billion euros. These are expected to be completed by 2030.

Grid interconnection projects are also being worked on for the gas sector. Gas grid operator DESFA is looking to expand its network to cover 39 cities.

IPTO, DEPA Trade, DEPA Infrastucture sales put on hold

Energy-sector privatizations planned for launch in the second quarter, as well as sales already in progress, are being put on hold as a result of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the global economy and the plans of the government and privatization fund TAIPED.

Two thirds of Greece’s privatization program this year concerns energy utilities, as energy minister Costis Hatzidakis has noted.

The freeze on plans includes the sale of an additional stake of power grid operator IPTO, which was planned for the second quarter.

State Grid Corp of China (SGCC), already holding a 24 percent share of IPTO and possessing first-offer rights, has expressed an interest to boost its stake.

However, IPTO and SGCC officials have not been able to meet for talks as a result of the extreme conditions. Greece’s deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas had planned a trip to China one-and-a-half months ago but was unable to travel as a result of a travel ban imposed by the Chinese government following the coronavirus outbreak in China early this year.

Two privatization procedures for gas utility DEPA’s new entities, DEPA Trade and DEPA Infrastructure, both of which have drawn considerable interest, have also been put on hold.

The DEPA Trade sale attracted nine bidding teams, domestic and international, for its first round, a turnout interpreted as a vote of confidence for the Greek economy. The sale’s first-round expressions of interest could be appraised in the summer.

No date change, at present, for DEPA Trade privatization effort

No further scheduling revisions are intended – at present – for the DEPA Trade privatization procedure, whose first-round deadline has already been reset for March 23, government officials have told energypress.

Officials at privatization fund TAIPED are concerned the coronavirus crisis could impact the sale and subdue bidding interest.

DEPA Trade was established as a new gas utility DEPA entity for the privatization, offering the Greek State’s 65 percent stake.

The DEPA Trade privatization procedure can move ahead as planned because the aforementioned deadline has already been extended once and is non-binding, the energy ministry has contended, adding extension requests are limited to a very small number of investors.

Essentially, the ministry, and government as a whole, are determined to avoid any sale delays as this would reinforce the picture of a halt in economic activity.  The government sees the next fortnight as a crucial period for the coronoavirus preventive measures and economy.

Subdued interest by prospective bidders, including funds and consortiums, cannot be ruled out as Greece is still regarded as a high-risk market. These concerns also apply for the country’s two other upcoming major privatizations concerning DEPA Infrastructure and Athens International Airport.

 

Energy firms react against RAE plan for WACC reduction

The prospect of upcoming WACC level reductions reportedly planned by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, for gas grid operator DESFA, power grid operator IPTO, as well as the country’s gas distributors EDA Attiki, EDA Thess, DEDA and their parent company DEPA, the gas utility, has unsettled the administrations of all these companies.

Though RAE has not yet reached a decision on the matter, the aforementioned energy companies understand the authority is working to soon lower their WACC levels as a follow-up adjustment to the government’s business tax rate reduction, from 29 to 24 percent.

RAE has endorsed the current WACC levels for a four-year period. A revision at this point would cancel out this endorsement.

The energy companies will push for a delay of any WACC rate revisions until the four-year period has expired, it is believed.

DESFA officials have already pointed out a need for stability and predictability, also stressing the company has invested heavily in the operator during a difficult period for the country.

DEPA’s gas distribution companies fear a WACC revision may negatively impact an ongoing privatization procedure for DEPA Infrastructure, a new DEPA entity established for the privatization.

DEPA and its associated firms have warned DEPA Infrastructure would become a less attractive prospect for nine candidates who have expressed first-round interest, while a revision before the WACC level’s four-year period has been completed could be interpreted as a signal of uncertainty by investors.

Energy sector transactions forecast to grow in 2020

Energy sector acquisitions and mergers are expected to represent an increased share of overall transactions this year, according to officials at professional services multinational PwC.

The combined effect of a European turn towards investments for green energy growth and Greece’s decarbonization plan is focusing Greek investment interest on the renewable energy sector, PwC officials pointed out during a presentation of an annual report.

Hellenic Petroleum ELPE’s recent decision to purchase an unfinished 204-MW solar energy park from Germany’s Juwi for 130 million euros, as well as petroleum group Motor Oil’s move to acquire a 47-MW RES project from Mytilineos for 45.8 million euros were highlighted as signs of things to come.

PwC officials also confirmed the interest of major foreign funds for RES investment opportunities in Greece, as was disclosed by energypress earlier this week.

Gas utility DEPA’s privatization of DEPA Infrastructure, a new company entity, will be completed this year, while nine prospective bidders, in the procedure’s preliminary stage, have already emerged to express official interest, PwC officials pointed out.

In 2019, Greece’s energy sector represented 5.8 percent of the country’s total number of takeovers and mergers, transactions worth a total of 4.3 billion euros.

 

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.

DESFA wants key role in country’s infrastructure projects

Gas grid operator DESFA, controlled by Senfluga, a consortium formed by Snam, Enagas and Fluxys for their acquisition of a 66 percent stake of the operator in 2018, is determined to play a leading role in all the country’s infrastructure projects as well as Greece’s wider natural gas-related developments.

“We see our role as being that of the leader in Greece’s gas sector and the wider region. We are interested in every gas project and want to be able to claim it. We also have the know-how and strong shareholders to play such a role,” a DESFA official told energypress.

According to sources, DESFA’s emergence as a prospective buyer of DEPA Infrastructure, a new entity established by gas utility DEPA as part of its privatization procedure, prompted officials to slightly extend the sale deadline.

More specifically, Snam, the Senfluga consortium’s chief member with a 54 percent stake, requested a deadline extension for the DEPA Infrastructure as it has yet to decide on its partners for this bidding quest. Enagas and Fluxys each hold 18 percent stakes in Senfluga. The Copelouzos group’s Damco recently joined this consortium, buying a 10 percent stake.

DESFA’s influence is also believed to have persuaded officials to delay a decision on whether to classify the development of a natural gas storage facility at a depleted offshore gas field in the south Kavala region as a national or independent grid project.

Snam, Enagas and Fluxys are part of the six-member Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) consortium.

DESFA, which has signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the Alexandroupoli FSRU, is now seriously considering to acquire a 20 percent stake in this venture, headed by Gastrade.

Other projects being considered by DESFA include a 175 million-euro Cretan LNG terminal that promises to resolve the island’s energy sufficiency concerns, as well as a 57.3-km gas pipeline connection linking the Thessaloniki area with North Macedonia, already included in the operator’s ten-year strategic plan.

 

Additional IPTO stake seen offered within next three months

The government, gearing up for a series of energy sector privatizations, plans to hasten the sale of an additional yet unspecified stake in power grid operator IPTO. The procedure could now be launched within the next three months.

Investor interest in IPTO has risen as the operator’s asset value is projected to increase sharply over the next decade.

The Greek State currently controls a 51 percent share of IPTO, directly and indirectly. Late in 2019, State Grid Corp of China (SGCC), the buyer of a 24 percent stake in IPTO and holder of priority rights should any additional stake be offered, expressed an interest to boost its stake in the operator and also acquire a 20 percent stake in subsidiary firm Ariadne Interconnector, project promoter of the Crete-Athens electricity grid interconnection, a project budgeted at one billion euros.

The size of the additional IPTO stake to be placed for sale remains unclear, but, without a doubt, SGCC’s decision on whether or not to exercise its priority right will be influential.

Italy’s Terna, holding a 30 percent stake in CDP Reti, an Italian holding company, is also believed to be interested in the upcoming IPTO sale. SGCC would also be involved here as the Chinese company holds a 35 percent stake in CDP Reti. French operator RTE and a variety of funds are also considered believed to be considering the IPTO sale.

IPTO’s assets are seen rising from a present level of 1.5 billion euros to five billion euros over the next ten years as a result of the development of major grid interconnection projects to link the country’s Dodecanese and North Aegean Islands with the mainland.

Greece’s energy-sector privatizations will not be limited to gas utility DEPA’s two new entities, DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Trade, both underway, nor will there be a gap until the next sale, distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, scheduled for September, energy ministry officials have informed. The Hellenic Petroleum ELPE sale will be deferred.

 

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.

‘DEPA key to Greece’s leading Balkan role, energy diversification’

Greek gas utility DEPA chief executive Konstantinos Xifaras met earlier today with the U.S. Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey Pyatt (photo), for a meeting focused on the recent energy-related developments in Southeast Europe as well as on the progress of significant projects in the wider region, currently under way or in design phase, such as the IGB pipeline, the Alexandroupoli FSRU and the EastMed pipeline, a project of strategic importance.

Following the meeting, Ambassador Pyatt remarked: “Greece is a leader in the Balkans in providing energy security and diversification of energy sources, and DEPA is key to its strategy. The U.S. therefore strongly supports DEPA’s participation in major projects that advance this strategy, particularly the Alexandroupoli FSRU, the IGB, TAP and potential EastMed pipeline, which are literally changing the energy map of Europe. These projects are critical for regional peace and security and will make Greece a regional energy hub.”

The DEPA chief commented: “We discussed, with the Ambassador, the course of significant energy projects currently under way in our region, in which DEPA has a leading role.  Over the past months, our company has striven to strengthen its position in the regional energy market, achieving notable cost reductions as well as expanding its activities in new sectors and products. At the same time, we remain focused on the double privatization [DEPA Trade, DEPA Infrastructure] and we are upgrading our participation in these international projects developing Greece into a regional energy hub, safeguarding, at the same time, the diversity of supply sources to the benefit of the country and consumers.”

 

DEPA Infrastructure yield, 8.2% + 1.5%, a drawcard for bidders

Though not yet officially announced, a new annual regulated yield for distribution network operators, now set, represents one of the strongest drawcards for the sale of DEPA Infrastructure, a new entity established by gas utility DEPA for privatization.

Prospective bidders engaged in preliminary contact with authorities linked to the DEPA Infrastructure sale ahead of a February 14 deadline for non-binding expression of interest have been told the WACC figure has been set at 8.2 percent plus a 1.5 percent premium if certain investment objectives are achieved.

These objectives include swift network development in areas covered by gas distributor EDA, achievement of pipeline addition goals, specified in kilometers, as well as the development of projects not included in DEPA Infrastructure’s initial development plan.

Prospective participants, including funds, will enter this privatization procedure knowing their investment’s potential yield can reach 9.7 percent, far higher than WACC performances enjoyed by network operators in central Europe.

This higher yield offering has generated all-round optimism for a solid turnout by participants Friday week.

Potential bidders, so far, are believed to include Greek gas grid operator DESFA, France’s Engie, Italy’s Italgas and Germany’s Eon.

Besides European operators, the privatization is also expected to attract a number of funds, seen partnering with operators for the sale’s second round of binding bids.

DEPA Infrastructure has taken under its wings DEPA’s interests in the distribution networks of wider Athens (EDA Attiki), Thessaloniki and Thessalia (EDA Thess) and the rest of Greece (DEDA).