Athens continuing with subsidy model despite Eurogroup request for cuts

The Greek government will continue offering electricity subsidies universally, to all consumers, based on a model it introduced in 2022, despite a Eurogroup proposal earlier this week for more restricted coverage giving priority to low-income households.

Finance minister Hristos Staikouras, commenting from Davos, and energy minister Kostas Skrekas, both ruled out any possibility of electricity subsidy cuts for now.

Greek elections are due within the next few months. Though electricity subsidies are keeping energy costs under control for consumers, they have hampered economic growth, as highlighted by GDP figures for 3Q in 2022.

The country’s subsidy strategy adopted in 2022, one that primarily supports households, as well as businesses, and which covered the majority of the energy crisis’ additional energy costs last year, without significant fiscal cost, will be continued, Staikouras, the finance minister, asserted from Davos.

Meanwhile, Skrekas, the energy minister, ruled out any chance of subsidy cuts until electricity suppliers are able to set retail prices at levels of 15 to 16 cents per KWh. He was fielding questions at a news conference on Greece’s revised National Energy and Climate Plan.

Given the current market conditions, suppliers are not too far off being in a position to set electricity prices at such levels. Their nominal prices for February, to be announced tomorrow – based on recent market rules requiring suppliers to announce their prices for each forthcoming month by the 20th of the previous month – are expected to be slashed by as much as 50 percent compared to January, to levels of around 20 cents per KWh. At such nominal levels, the government will chip in with subsidies not exceeding 6 cents per KWh.

In Greece, energy subsidy support offered in 2022 has been estimated to be worth 2.3 percent of the GDP, above the EU average of 1.3 percent of GDP, seen falling to 0.9 percent this year.

Fuel sales up 2 percent in 2022, higher heating fuel prices in ‘23

Retail fuel sales rose by a marginal 2 percent in 2022, compared to the previous year, a rise attributed to higher auto and heating fuel demand.

Gasoline sales fell by 2 percent, compared to 2021, the biggest drop occurring in the second half of 2022, which, however, was offset by higher demand for diesel and heating fuel, market officials noted.

Demand for auto diesel increased by an estimated 3.5 to 4 percent, driven higher by the country’s continuing rise in tourism, as well as by the economy’s robust performance in 2022.

Heating fuel demand increased as a result of lower prices compared to other heating sources. Heating fuel sales increased by 6 percent as consumers rushed to make the most of government subsidies, ahead of cuts, and discounts offered by refineries.

The finance ministry cut heating fuel subsidies by 10 cents per liter, reducing state subsidies for this fuel to 15 cents per liter from 25 cents per liter.

Also, according to sources, Helleniq Energy, formerly ELPE, will not continue offering a discount of 0.0375 euros per liter for heating fuel to suppliers in the new year.

The combined effect of these revisions is expected to lead to a gradual rise of 14 cents per liter in heating fuel retail prices.




Extraordinary tax on producer windfall profits to raise €460m

A new joint ministerial decision by the finance and energy ministers has introduced a formula for a temporary extraordinary tax on windfall earnings accumulated by vertically integrated energy groups during the nine-month period between October, 2021 and June, 2022.

The windfall tax, whose coefficient has been set at 90 percent, is expected to result in a collection of approximately 460 million euros.

The joint ministerial decision, published in the government gazette, overcomes a delay in the delivery of certified data by a certified accountant to RAE, the Regulatory Authority of Energy, as was foreseen in the original joint ministerial decision. It enables preliminary calculation by RAE, based on the uncertified data, so that a provisional extraordinary levy can be paid immediately by all electricity producers.

Specific amounts, and any corrections needed, will be calculated at a latter date, based on data that will have been certified.

Electricity producers windfall tax now imminent

Joint ministerial decisions needed by the finance and energy ministries for the implementation of a 90 percent windfall tax on recent extraordinary gains achieved by vertically integrated electricity producers are set to be signed by the two ministries, energy minister Kostas Skrekas has told a news conference.

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has delivered its report for electricity producer earnings covering a six-month period from October, 2021 to March, 2022, to be subject to the new windfall tax.

As for a second period to be subject to this extraordinary tax, a three-month term covering April to June this year, RAE has requested further details from the energy groups on discounts offered as well as returns linked to bilateral agreements. These details will be delivered to RAE once they have been approved by a certified public accountant.


New subsidy sources needed, energy prices seen persisting

Energy prices are forecast to remain elevated and turbulent for at least another year or so, until early 2023, according to a number of market reports, including one by the European Commission, which means that the government faces the challenge of finding new support fund sources for consumers and businesses, scrambling to meet exorbitant energy prices brought about by the energy crisis.

Until now, the government has relied on Energy Transition Fund money generated by carbon emission right auctions to offer consumers subsidies, but will need to resort to the state budget should this money eventually run out.

Finance minister Christos Staikouras made this need clear in an interview with Greek media outlet Real. “The finance ministry may now possibly need to make available funds from the state budget, not the Energy Transition Fund, for adverse scenarios in the second half of 2022, in order to subsidize households and businesses,” the minister noted.

IPTO grid projects set to receive €195m in recovery fund support

Two major grid projects planned for development by power grid operator IPTO in order to boost the country’s grid capacity and energy security are set to receive a total of 195 million euros in funding through the recovery and resilience fund, following a joint ministerial decision by the energy and finance ministries.

The joint ministerial decision secures financial support, through the recovery and resilience fund, for the fourth and final phase of the Cyclades interconnection and reconstruction of the Koumoundourou high-voltage center along with a 400kV line linking the facility with the Corinth high-voltage center, west of Athens.

The two projects are budgeted at a combined total of 482 million euros. The fourth phase of the Cyclades interconnection, budgeted at 393 million euros, is expected to receive 165 million euros through the recovery and resilience fund.

The Koumoundourou high-voltage center, whose budget is estimated at 89 million euros, is expected to receive 30 million euros in financing through the recovery and resilience fund.

Electricity cost support in 2022 to be limited by fiscal deficit

Electricity bill subsidies are expected to be extended into 2022 but will not be offered universally for all household income categories, as has been the case this year, as a result of the fiscal deficit, seen closing 2021 at approximately 7 percent of GDP, despite GDP growth that is projected to exceed 8 percent.

The resulting lack of leeway has been pointed out by officials at Greece’s finance ministry as well as the European Commission, which has called for targeted energy-crisis support for lower-income households.

The government is preparing for a new round of negotiations with Brussels for household energy support measures in 2022.

In recent months, Athens has offered electricity-bill subsidies to all household consumer categories, regardless of income level, worth 39 euros per month for the first 300 KWh of consumption.

Given the projected fiscal deficit, the government has little financial leeway to keep offering a universal energy support package in 2022.

The administration needs to find new ways of supporting households unable to cope with exorbitant energy costs if price levels remain high next month.

Brussels hesitant on hedging mechanism for energy prices

A Greek proposal for the EU’s adoption of a temporary hedging mechanism as a means of easing the burden of sharply risen energy costs on consumers, to be tabled at a Eurogroup meeting of EU finance ministers today, will be met with hesitancy as the European Commission would not want to bring to the negotiating table issues linked to the Emissions Trading System, fearing any potential need of a compromise with member states opposed to the ETS, such as Poland, well-informed sources anticipate.

The European Commission has fought hard to establish the ETS as a means of combating climate change.

The temporary hedging mechanism would draw funds from the Emissions Trading System’s auctions of CO2 emission rights.

The hedging mechanism was proposed several weeks ago by Greek energy minister Konstantinos Skrekas and will be officially presented by Greek finance minister Hristos Staikouras to his European counterparts at today’s Eurogroup meeting.

The EU finance ministers will be focusing on the alarming increase in energy prices, prompted by a combination of international factors, though finalized decisions at this session are considered unlikely.

Prinos field rescue effort now at the finance ministry

A government effort to rescue offshore Prinos, Greece’s only producing field, in the north, is now in the hands of the finance ministry following preceding work at the energy ministry, sources have informed.

The field, like the wider upstream industry, has been impacted by the pandemic and plunge in oil prices.

Deputy finance minister Theodoros Skylakakis is now handling the Prinos rescue case following the transfer of a related file from the energy ministry.

According to the sources, three scenarios are being considered. A financing plan through a loan with Greek State guarantees appears to be the top priority. A second option entails the utilization of an alternate form of state aid. The other consideration involves the Greek State’s equity participation in the Prinos field’s license holder, Energean Oil & Gas.

The European Commission will need to offer its approval to any of these options as they all represent forms of state aid.

Energy ministry sources have avoided offering details but are confident a solution is in the making.

Crisis’ impact on Prinos looked at, Energean up against time

The energy ministry has turned to specialized consulting firm assistance for a detailed analysis on the pandemic’s financial impact on the Prinos offshore oil field in northern Greece, the country’s only producing field at present.

The energy ministry’s secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou, handling the matter on behalf of the ministry, is currently holding talks on a daily basis with officials at Energean Oil & Gas, the field’s license holder.

The company wants emergency government support amid the extraordinary market conditions, energypress sources have informed.

The two sides are believed to be closely examining related data to determine the extent of the financial damage, for this project, due to the plunge in international oil prices, prompted by lower demand amid the widespread lockdown.

Energean Oil & Gas has invested 50 million euros between September, 2019 and May to keep production flowing at Prinos, an aging field, sources noted.

Sustainability is becoming a growing challenge at this venture, employing a workforce of approximately 270 employees, market authorities have noted. A cutdown in operating costs is seen as essential.

A cash injection for “Epsilon”, a fresher field in the area also licensed to Energean, could be made as a support for the company. Another option may entail financial support by the Greek State in exchange for a stake in Energean. Alternatively, state guarantees could be offered for a bank loan.

The finance ministry is also expected to become involved in the Prinos rescue effort. Much work lies ahead before any decisions can be reached. These will require European Commission approval.

PPC public service return for 2011 from 2020 national budget

The government has decided to cover a power utility PPC a public service compensation (YKO) payment of 195 million euros, endorsed by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, through the 2020 national budget, energypress sources have informed.

Though this solution, agreed to by energy minister Costis Hatzidakis and the finance ministry, does not promise instant relief for state-controlled PPC, burdened by poor finances, it does secure a prospective cash influx that will be taken into account by Ernst & Young, the utility’s certified auditor, scheduled to deliver a report on the Greek power utility on September 24.

This amount is expected to contribute to a sum of over 800 million euros needed by PPC over the next 12 months, according to new chief executive Giorgos Stassis.

RAE’s initial calculations for PPC’s 2011 public service compensation resulted in a sum of 160 million euros before this amount was revised to 195 million euros. PPC originally sought a sum of between 650 and 700 million euros before settling for RAE’s far lower figure.

Ministries in rush for €195m PPC public service payment

Energy and finance ministry officials, working against the clock, are scrambling to ensure a payment to power utility PPC for an outstanding public service compensation (YKO) concerning 2011 ahead of the next report on the utility’s results by certified auditor Ernst & Young, scheduled for September 24.

Meetings involving energy ministry, RAE (Regulatory Authority for Energy) and finance ministry officials have increased in frequency over the past few days as a solution is sought.

The officials are seeking to determine if the amount, calculated at 195 million euros by RAE, can be covered via the national budget without the need to impose YKO hikes on electricity consumers.

The amount is needed by PPC, struggling with poor finances, if further bad news from Ernst & Young is to be avoided in the next report.

The officials are also looking at whether PPC could receive this amount as one lump sum or through installments, until 2021, to avoid impacting the budget and consumers.

Initial calculations by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, had estimated a sum of between 160 and 200 million euros before the authority finalized the figure at 195 million euros.

A legislative revision giving RAE full authority over the matter is needed before PPC can receive the amount.


TAIPED awaiting ND position on ELPE, DEPA privatizations

The privatization fund TAIPED is awaiting the newly elected conservative New Democracy government’s strategy on energy sector privatizations so that it can reshape, from scratch, as it appears, the sale procedures for Hellenic Petroleum ELPE and gas utility DEPA.

The newly appointed energy minister Costis Hatzidakis may have highlighted the importance of these two privatizations during proceedings at the ministry’s recent handover ceremony, describing both sales as agenda priorities. However, everything concerning both will need to be placed on hold as emphasis must currently be placed on the troubled power utility PPC and the effort to find a successor for chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis, who resigned from his post at the state-controlled company shortly after the ND’s victory in the July 7 election.

TAIPED officials also need to stage a first meeting with finance minister Hristos Staikouras, during which talks on the shape of the new ND government’s privatization strategy preferences can be discussed.

ELPE’s future administrative shape, following the recent failure of an initial privatization effort, remains in the dark. Pundits have already ruled out the possibility of a repeat of this sale effort – that is, a concurrent sale of stakes by the petroleum group’s two main shareholders, the Greek State, holding 35.5 percent of ELPE, and the Latsis Group’s Paneuropean, holding 45.5 percent. It is also unknown, if not doubtful, if Paneuropean will be willing to participate in any new ELPE sale procedure.

For the time being, ELPE’s administration is focused on the preparation of the group’s first-half results, expected to be officially reported in late August, as well as an imminent approval in Greek Parliament of hydrocarbon exploration and production licenses secured – as part of a consortium also involving ExxonMobil and Total – for two offshore blocks west and southwest of Crete.

All is currently quiet along the DEPA front. The ND party, according to party sources during the lead-up to the elections, believes the gas utility must be privatized as one entity, not two, through a split of its commercial and infrastructure divisions, as was envisioned by the previous leftist Syriza government.

The DEPA-related intentions of ELPE, holding a 35 percent share of the gas utility, will be pivotal.






NOME starting price rise to at least €56 per MWh expected

A study prepared by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, proposes a NOME auction starting price increase to just over 56 euros per MWh, a significant rise from the current level of 36.34 euros per MWh, primarily as a result of a sharp rise in CO2 emission right costs.

The new NOME starting price could even reach as much as 58 euros per MWh if a two-euro lignite surcharge ends up being added. This will be decided by finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos and energy minister Giorgos Stathakis.

RAE has forwarded its NOME study to the two ministers.

CO2 emission right costs have risen from five euros per ton approximately a year-and-a-half ago to 25 euros per ton.

If a ministerial decision is delivered swiftly then a new NOME starting price will apply for the next auction on July 17, to offer participants 500 MWh/h as well as at the ensuing October 16 session offering 767 MWH/h.

NOME auctions were introduced about three years ago as a means of offering independent players access to the main power utility PPC’s lower-cost lignite and hydropower sources.

PPC, ND opposition party dread utility’s first-half results

Power utility PPC’s trajectory towards a poor first-half performance, expected as a result of disappointing first-quarter figures and looming very bad results for the second quarter, are a concern for both the company itself and the main opposition New Democracy party, if it is voted into power at the July 7 elections, as the recent European election results have indicated.

There are no signs of a late second-quarter rebound for PPC within the next fortnight or so, when the first-half period is completed.

Not surprisingly, the ND party has remained quiet on PPC, marginalizing the power utility on its pre-election agenda.

Cash flow problems are dreaded at PPC, a corporation with 16,747 staff members on the payroll, a senior company official recently acknowledged in comments to reporters.

PPC’s first-half results, to be published in autumn, as is customary, will provide a clear picture on the course of the company, which has relied heavily on cash injections from the State for support but has not received any new amount of late.

Most recently, PPC was expecting a cash injection of 250 million euros for public service compensation (YKO) concerning 2011. The prospect, which would have offered PPC some relief, was blocked by finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos.



PPC to miss €250m public service return, a new setback

The energy ministry, working overtime to prepare a series of legislative revisions it will seek to have ratified in parliament tomorrow, ahead of the July 7 snap elections, does not, at this stage, intend to include in its package an amendment that would enable the main power utility PPC to claim an older public service compensation (YKO) amount concerning 2011, sources have informed.

This development comes as a major concern for PPC both in terms of its cash flow and financial results.

The power utility had initially sought an amount of between 650 and 700 million euros but authorities have planned to return a sum of about 200 to 250 million euros, which would offer a major financial boost to PPC, facing various challenges.

Over the past few days, the state-controlled power utility’s administration has urged finance ministry and other government officials for a solution ahead of tomorrow’s parliamentary discussion of the energy ministry’s amendments.

As its next step, PPC will seek to convince RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, the matter can skip parliament. PPC officials believe the authority is legally entitled to reach a decision on the matter without legislative backing.

RAE has already recognized PPC’s right to an amount stemming from YKO returns between 2008 and 2011, as the power utility was deprived of a year’s worth of money.

Further delays in full implementation of fuel smuggling measures

Measures designed to clamp down on illicit fuel trade will require an additional three-year period to be fully implemented, the heads of a fuel traders association were told at a meeting yesterday with Giorgos Pitsilis, the head official at AADE, the Independent Authority for Public Revenue, a finance ministry division.

The measures, intended to prevent fuel smuggling activity said to be worth as much as 250 million euros annually, were originally presented in 2009, meaning their full implementation by December 31, 2021, as traders were told, will have required 12 years to achieve, if achieved.

The plan includes a cash inflow-outflow tracking system for petrol stations and the installation of GPS systems on fuel trucks to monitor their movements.

Petrol stations installed the required technology for cash inflow-outflow monitoring between 2014 and 2016 but AADE has not fully utilized incoming data. The authority has limited its activity to random checks.

Complicating matters even more, AADE intends to commission a firm for inflow-outflow tracking system inspections in autumn, as part of a re-certification process. Any systems found to not meet required standards will need to be reinstalled, according to this plan.

This could cause additional confusion and unrest as petrol station owners and fuel companies spent over 100 million euros between 2014 and 2016 to have cash inflow-outflow monitoring systems installed.

NOME starting price set for big hike, new setback for suppliers

The NOME auction starting price, revised every June by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, and shaped by a number of key factors, appears set to rise sharply to a level of at least 55 euros per MWh//h from the 36.34 euro per MWh/h set last June, according to pundit calculations.

The revised NOME starting price is expected to apply for the year’s third and fourth sessions scheduled for July 17 (500 MWh/h) and October 16 (767 MWh/h).

This would come as a major setback for the country’s independent electricity  suppliers, already facing uncompetitive electricity market conditions in their effort to gain market shares at the cost of the main power utility PPC, still dominating.

Higher NOME auction prices reached at the previous two NOME auctions have severely restricted the ability of independent power suppliers to compete seriously against PPC.

PPC’s tariffs have remained unchanged despite a rise in wholesale prices. The power utility wants to increase its tariffs by introducing a clause enabling hikes if certain CO2 cost upper limits are exceeded and reducing a 15 percent punctuality discount. It remains unknown if and when the government will permit these moves.

The NOME starting price is reset every June following a joint ministerial decision by the energy and finance ministries, based on the results of a RAE study on the matter.

The forward price for CO2 emission rights at the European Energy Exchange and PPC’s cost-related data concerning variable costs are the two main factors taken into account by the energy authority when reviewing the NOME starting price.


Ministry proposes law revision for ELPE sale’s public offering dispute

Greece’s finance ministry has proposed a legislative revision as a solution exempting the ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) privatization from law concerning public offering procedures.

The Capital Market Commission, locked in a dispute with the ministry and TAIPED, the state privatization fund, has insisted that the ELPE privatization cannot be exempted from public offering procedures as, besides the Greek State, selling 20.5 of its 35.5 percent stake, the sale also involves a private-sector company, Paneuropean, ELPE’s main shareholder, which owns 45.47 percent and is selling a 30.47 percent stake. Subsequently, the sale cannot be regarded as one of exclusive interest to the public sector, the Capital Market Commission has contended.

Insiders believe the finance ministry’s revision proposal will not be easy to achieve as the law concerning public offers is clear.

The dispute has prompted a deadline delay for binding bids, now expected to be extended until no sooner than December.

Dutch enterprise Vitol and Switzerland’s Glencore are the two contenders in an international tender offering 51 percent of ELPE.


Numerous households excluded from subsidized power program

Thousands of underprivileged households eligible, until recently, for subsidized lower-cost electricity through the Social Residential Tariff (KOT) program have been left without electricity for periods ranging from hours to days as a result of their failure to submit renewed application forms earlier this year.

Though KOT qualification standards have been toughened up through stricter income and property criteria, prompting KOT disqualification for many previous beneficiaries, numerous households were rejected as they failed to submit new application forms this year by an April 30 deadline.

No official figure has been provided but it is estimated that some 250,000 households have been excluded from the KOT program since the April deadline.  Households still not reinstated have been granted the right to reapply for subsidized electricity between October 30 and November 30.

Previously eligible parties were ousted from the subsidy program during a cross-examination of data maintained at the main power utility PPC and the finance ministry’s Independent Authority for Public Revenue (AADE), which administers income data for the KOT program.

Besides being deprived of a 40 percent electricity tariff discount offered through the program, affected parties have also found themselves unprotected from power supply cuts. KOT households are protected from power cuts.


PPC doubts €137m tax bill linked to IPTO split from utility

The main power utility PPC plans to request the cancellation and recalculation of a 137 million-euro tax bill imposed on the power utility and due this year as it believes the sum, linked to the power grid operator IPTO’s split from the parent company, is excessively oversized.

By questioning this amount PPC is, in effect, also casting doubts over the procedure implemented for IPTO’s split from the utility.

The power utility needed to surrender its full ownership of the power grid operator but was only compensated for a 49 percent stake sold to the Greek State and China’s SGCC. The Chinese firm acquired a 24 percent stake in IPTO last year. The other 51 percent – factored into the tax equation – was transferred to shareholders for free, without any cash inflow, the power utility contends.

Despite only receiving an amount for the 49 percent share of IPTO sold to the Greek State and SGCC, the power utility was taxed for the full 100 percent value of the operator, the power utility contends.

PPC received 320 million euros from SGCC as well as three separate amounts from the Greek State, 330 million euros, 295.6 million euros, and a further 93 million euros as a return of capital.

PPC’s total tax bill for the current year is worth approximately 350 million euros, including the IPTO-related 137 million euros being disputed by the power utility, or nearly 40 percent of the utility’s total tax obligation for the year.


PPC, Greek State arrears deal to offer latter 25% discount

The main power utility PPC has reached a deal with the Greek State for the settlement of electricity consumption arrears owed by the latter as well as reduced tariffs to be offered by the utility for civil sector electricity consumption in the current year.

According to sources, the Greek State has already paid PPC a sum of between 60 and 65 million euros, which covers roughly half the 120 million-euro total owed to the power utility.

The outstanding Greek State amount, concerning various public sector divisions, is expected to be delivered once details concerning each individual debtor have been inspected and verified.

The power utility and the finance ministry, representing the Greek State, also agreed on an advance payment for consumption in 2018 in exchange for reduced tariffs. This arrangement will also provide some cash flow relief to the power utility.

Besides a 15 percent discount offered by PPC to all punctual customers and a 6 percent discount offered to customers making advance payments, the Greek State will also benefit from a discount offered to industrial consumers for major-scale electricity consumption.

The arrangement agreed to will offer the Greek State a total discount of around 25 to 26 percent.

This means that the Greek State will be expected to make an advance payment of approximately 480 million euros for consumption in 2018, based on its consumption level in 2017.


NOME auction starting price set to rise to €36.30 euros per MWh

A RAE (Regulatory Authority for Energy) study concerning the starting price of the country’s next NOME auction, scheduled for July, proposes an increase to 36.30 euros per MWh from the current level of 32.05 per MWh, according to sources.

Energy minister Giorgos Stathakis, who has already received the study, plans to soon sign a related joint ministerial decision before it is also endorsed by the finance ministry and the revised starting price is officially announced ahead of next month’s NOME auction.

NOME auctions were introduced in Greece nearly two years ago to offer third parties access to the main power utility PPC’s lower-cost lignite and hydropower sources.

The authority’s starting-price hike proposal resulted from an increase in the price of CO2 emission rights at the European energy exchange as well as PPC cost-related data concerning its lignite and hydropower-based output.

The new NOME starting price level is expected to apply for the forthcoming NOME auction, planned for July 18, and all ensuing sessions until the procedure is reviewed in June next year.

Officials agree the expected starting price increase will not impact the market as closing prices at previous NOME auctions rose well above starting price levels, and, most importantly, market data indicates wholesale electricity prices are on the rise, both locally and internationally.

The closing price at the most recent NOME auction reached 42.05 euros per MWh.



Various ELPE sale plans tabled as sale launch date approaches

Various intentions concerning the price and schedule of ELPE’s (Hellenic Petroleum) imminent privatization, the biggest planned for Greece’s energy sector and one of the overall program’s biggest, are still being considered by local officials despite the fact that the government and country’s lenders have settled for the sale of a 51 percent stake of the petroleum group.

The government, representing the Greek State’s 35.5 percent stake of ELPE, and Paneuropean Oil, a member of the Latsis corporate group, which controls a 45.47 percent stake, will need to forge an agreement offering a majority stake for a strategic investor.

Three lines of thought have emerged. The finance ministry, powering the first of these, is pushing to finalize all pending bailout issues by a June 21 Eurogroup meeting. Officials at the ministry know well that the course of the country’s privatizations program will be pivotal for post-bailout terms, including relief measure negotiations.

Energy minister Giorgos Stathakis, the chief advocate of a second approach to the ELPE privatization, appears to have abandoned initial thoughts entailing various alternatives and has agreed on the basics of the plan to offer investors a 51 percent of the petroluem group. However, he seems determined to hold on to some sort of Greek State control for ELPE, currently experiencing one of the most profitable periods in the corporation’s history. ELPE’s board supports this approach.

As for the sale’s other factor, the Latsis corporate group’s Paneuropean Oil appears to have struck common ground with the Greek State for an agreement that would offer investors a 51 percent stake of ELPE.

Developments concerning this privatization are expected to unfold over the next few weeks. The sale’s international tender is, according to the bailout terms, planned to be announced in roughly two weeks’ time.

Moment of truth for energy-sector privatizations has arrived

Greece’s energy minister Giorgos Stathakis and finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos will hold crucial meetings with the country’s lender representatives today, seen as pivotal for the shape of upcoming energy-sector privatizations.

Alternative approaches concerning the prospective privatizations of ELPE-Hellenic Petroleum (35%), DEPA-Public Gas Corporation (65%) and PPC-Public Power Corporation (17%), which the energy minister appears to be supporting, are expected to be tabled.

Stathakis is believed to be aiming to utilize part or all of these utility stakes through a transfer to the new privatization fund, whose framework includes a holding company allowing for improved asset utilization; convertible bond issues representing equivalent stakes; or some other plan that would ensure control of the utilities for the Greek State.

TAIPED, the state privatization, now a subsidiary of the new privatization fund, is already working on privatization plans agreed to with the lenders. It remains to be seen how the energy minister’s attempt to promote alternative scenarios will be received, if, in fact, these are discussed.

It appears that the finance ministry, well aware of bailout fourth-review repercussions any disagreement could provoke, is not in favor of structural revisions concerning the privatization plans already established with the lenders.

In the case of ELPE, enjoying a period of record profits, government officials are keen to achieve a solution that may reflect this success. A foreign evaluator, in a recent study conducted on ELPE, is believed to have put a price tag of 4.8 billion euros on the firm. Any prospective buyer would also need to shoulder the enterprise’s debt of two billion euros. The study, which also sought to measure the level of interest of investors, indicated that firms from the west, even beyond, including China, would probably not be willing to pay such an amount.

DEPA, too, has posted robust performance figures in recent times. In 2017, the firm’s natural gas sales exceeded 4 billion cubic meters, reaching 4.04 billion cubic meters, a 2 percent increase compared to a year earlier, while its net profit after tax amounted to 133 million euros, a 37 percent increase.

A hybrid solution for DEPA, entailing the entry of a strategic investor as well as the listing of company shares on the bourse, is possible.

As for ELPE, the Greek State and Paneuropean Oil, a member of the Latsis corporate group holding a 45.47 percent stake in ELPE, have begun discussions for a plan entailing offering 51 percent of ELPE to a strategic investor, plus managerial rights.

If any alternative plans for the ELPE, DEPA and PPC privatizations are adopted, then the government will need to somehow cover the three billion euros in overall privatization revenues it has agreed to over the next two years – two billion in 2018 and one billion in 2019.

According to the 2018 national budget, the ELPE, DEPA and PPC privatizations are expected to provide 850 million euros.





Series of pending energy issues to be tackled in 4th review

A series of pending energy-sector issues that were either not resolved during the bailout’s third review or emerged most recently will be the focus of the Greek program’s fourth – and final – review beginning next week in Athens.

Leading energy ministry officials will hold meetings with technocrats representing the lenders, arriving Monday.

Seven energy-sector issues will need to looked at by the energy ministry officials and visiting technocrats, while an eighth matter, energy firm privatizations, will also involve finance ministry officials.

The energy ministry will seek to avoid selling the entirety of the Greek State’s stakes in ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), DEPA (Public Gas Corporation) and PPC (Public Power Corporation). It prefers solutions that could maintain the Greek State’s control in these enterprises.

A road map for natural gas market reforms needs to be finalized during the fourth review talks. Many reforms have already been implemented but the role of DEPA in the wholesale, retail and distribution markets needs to be clarified.

NOME auction revisions and other measures needed to open up the retail electricity market is another issue. PPC’s market share remains stubbornly high, at around 85 percent.

A formula for a RES-supporting supplier surcharge reduction, viewed as a first step before the surcharge is replaced by a new mechanism, also needs to be forged.

The possibility of new energy-sector account deficits that may result from a more generous social policy pursued by the government through public service compensation (YKO) and social residential tariffs (KOT) revisions will also be examined.

The delayed implementation of Target Model measures is another matter to be tabled.

A new transitional flexibility remuneration mechanism for gas-fired electricity production needs to be finalized and endorsed. Delays here have unnerved the European Commission.

The new RES support framework will also be on the agenda of the upcoming talks. Pending issues for certain RES technologies, the most pressing being regulatory framework and tariffs for hybrid projects, need to be resolved.



PPC to receive bulk of public service YKO returns early on

Negotiations between the country’s lenders and government officials for a Public Service Compensation (YKO) retroactive return to the main power utility PPC, totaling 360 million euros and concerning 2012 to 2016, are progressing favorably for the utility.

Though PPC stands no chance of receiving anything over the aforementioned amount – the utility had originally demanded 735 million euros – it can expect to receive a considerable part of the 360 million euros in 2018.

It appears the negotiating sides have settled for a payment of 130 million euros to PPC in 2018 before the remaining sum is evenly divided over a four-year period covering 2019 to 2022.

According to sources, the 130 million-euro payment to be made to PPC in 2018 will stem from the budget’s primary surplus. Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos recently told parliament that a portion of the primary surplus would be used to service amounts owed by the Greek State to various enterprises and agencies.

Authorities needed to turn to the primary surplus as the lender institutions wanted to avoid burdening the 2018 budget despite insisting that PPC must receive its retroactive YKO sum.

The 360 million-euro payment’s remaining 230 million euros is expected to be covered by the budget.

An YKO surcharge is imposed on electricity bills to primarily subsidize high-cost electricity production on Greece’s non-interconnected islands and also support the Social Residential Tariff (KOT) program offering underpriviledged households subsidies for lower-cost electricity.

PPC advised to improve profit margins, cut operating costs

The finance ministry has advised the main power utility PPC to improve its profit margins and cut operational costs in a preliminary report concerning the utility’s strategic direction and forwarded to Greece’s new privatization superfund (EESYP), expected to start operating at the beginning of 2018.

The finance ministry’s preliminary report on PPC also calls for the utility to focus on offering modern services and utilize interconnections and modern technologies.

A total of 17 state utilities, including 34 percent of PPC held by the Greek State, will be transferred to the Public Holding Company (EDIS), to serve as a subsidiary of the new EESYP superfund. These utilities will be subject to the demands of the EDIS holding company, whose role will be to seek ways of improving utility performances as an effort to prevent their privatizations.

The Greek State’s other 17 percent of PPC is already controlled by TAIPED, the existing state privatization fund being incorporated into the overall structure of the new superfund.

The finance ministry’s proposals are expected to be fine-tuned in November and December, when the privatization fund establishes its strategic plans for each of the 17 state utilities.

The recommendations included in the preliminary PPC report, forwarded to the privatization fund by finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos, call for net profit margin and operating profit improvements through better capital management, as well as a reduction in operating costs.

All utility boards, including that of PPC, will be appraised based on the performances of their respective utilities, before new strategic plans are set.

All utilities transferred to the EDIS fund will be obligated to meet specific targets. These will become known early next year, once the superfund has been launched.