Energy minister Kostas Skrekas’ admission of concern over the impact, on DEPA Commercial’s privatization prospects, of the gas company’s ongoing legal dispute with ELFE (Hellenic Fertilizers and Chemicals) increases the likelihood of this sale being deferred until late this year, if not later, sources contend.
The minister, speaking at Power & Supply Forum, an online event staged earlier this week by energypress, admitted being troubled by DEPA Commercial’s unresolved legal battle with “a major consumer”.
DEPA Commercial has challenged an Athens Court of First Instance verdict that ordered the company to return 61 million euros to ELFE for alleged overcharging between 2010 and 2015. The appeal has been deferred for September and may be jointly heard with a separate case involving the two companies over a similar amount of unpaid receivables that is allegedly owed by the fertilizer and chemicals producer to DEPA.
The government will most likely wait for the outcome of this legal dispute to be settled before taking any further steps in the DEPA Commercial privatization, planned to offer the Greek State’s 65 percent stake of the company and a 35 percent stake held by Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE).
Regardless of the outcome at the appeals court, this legal wrangle is expected to be taken all the way to the Council of State, Greece’s Supreme Administrative Court, the sources noted.
Should ELFE be vindicated in the overcharging case, other DEPA customers – even bigger consumers than ELFE – can also be expected to also take legal action, which could end up costing the gas company as much as a billion euros in refunds, the sources said.
Cancellation of the current privatization procedure and an ensuing company split of DEPA Commercial that would enable the sale of subsidiary Fysiko Aerio/Hellenic Energy Company is an unlikely prospect, the sources added.