Chinese firms barred from distribution operator sale

Conflict of interest, including in grid energy storage, a fast-growing market, has prompted power utility PPC to stop two Chinese firms interested in the prospective sale of a 49 percent stake in distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, a PPC subsidiary, from taking part.

State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), a strategic partner of Greek power grid operator IPTO with a 24 percent stake, and another Chinese company, still undisclosed, both participated in a market test for the DEDDIE/HEDNO privatization, indicating an interest to submit bids.

A total of 19 firms reportedly expressed preliminary interest in the sale’s market test, conducted by the procedure’s consultants.

The DEDDIE/HEDNO partial privatization’s conditions include a term barring the participation of any firms directly or indirectly related to IPTO.

The conflict-of-interest term was included in the sale’s rules as electricity network companies, whether involved in high voltage, such as IPTO, or mid and low voltage, such as DEDDIE/HEDNO, are expected to find themselves competing in various electricity market services, including energy storage.

The grid energy storage market – offering large-scale storage systems that store electrical energy during times of abundance, low prices, or low demand before returning it to the grid when demand is high and electricity prices tend to be higher – is experiencing rapid growth on a global scale.

Greece still lacks a legal framework covering this domain. The energy ministry is working on this pending issue, crucial for the country’s effort to achieve National Energy and Climate Plan objectives through greater RES penetration.

This legal framework will, amongst other matters, determine market participation and remuneration terms for energy storage units, as well as related services to be traded on the energy exchange.

PPC anticipates first-round expressions of interest from four to six consortiums for the DEDDIE/HEDNO sale of a 49 percent stake.

 

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

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

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

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

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

DEPA appeal against ELFE on January 28, deferral possible

A January 28 date has been set for an appeal filed by gas supplier DEPA Commercial to challenge a 2019 ruling by an Athens Court of First Instance that vindicated an overcharging claim by ELFE (Hellenic Fertilizers and Chemicals), awarding the producer a compensation amount worth 61 million euros.

ELFE was seeking a compensation amount of 302 million euros, arguing DEPA – the gas utility from which DEPA Commercial later sprung forth as a new group entity – overcharged between 2010 and 2015 for supply to the producer’s facility in Kavala, northern Greece, by passing on the increased cost of DEPA’s oil-indexed contract with Gazprom.

Also in 2019, the Athens Court of First had concurrently delivered a separate verdict in favor of DEPA, vindicating the gas company for unpaid receivables owed by ELFE. The producer was ordered to pay a sum estimated between 59.5 and 60 million euros.

In response, ELFE, too, filed an appeal opposing this 2019 decision, the hearing’s date set for September, 2021, sources informed.

Legal sources explained that the two appeals could end up being heard concurrently in September, based on a decision that may emerge from the forthcoming appeal ten days from now. Combining appeal cases is commonly practiced by courts, the sources noted.

If so, the amount of time needed to resolve this legal dispute will be extended, which would impact privatization fund TAIPED’s scheduling of the DEPA Commercial privatization.

TAIPED has set a March deadline for binding offers. This deadline could end up being stretched beyond September.

Should DEPA Commercial’s appeal against ELFE ultimately fail, then other customers of the gas company, primarily electricity producers and industrial enterprises, could also seek compensation amounts for overcharging.

Some pundits have pointed out that electricity producers were probably able to pass on to their customers any cost increase resulting from DEPA’s oil-indexed contract with Gazprom. On the contrary, industries did not have such leeway.

South Kavala UGS tender qualifiers by early February

Greece’s privatization fund TAIPED will finalize its list of second-round qualifiers in a tender offering development and operation of an underground gas storage facility (UGS) in the almost depleted natural gas field of “South Kavala” in northern Greece by late January or early February, sources have informed.

Three parties submitted first-round expressions of interest: China Machinery Engineering Co. Ltd. (CMEC) – Maison Group; DESFA – GEK Terna; and Energean Oil & Gas (in alphabetical order).

Assessments of their supporting documents and other criteria are expected to be completed within the next twenty days.

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, still needs to deliver decisions concerning the operating framework of the UGS.

These pending issues include a RAE decision on the percentage of the UGS project’s capacity to be regulated, thus pre-determining this proportion’s revenue, and the earnings percentage to be determined by market forces.

The authority also needs to decide on the duration of the regulatory period and its WACC level.

Outcome of ELFE legal battle crucial for DEPA’s privatization

The outcome of an appeal filed by gas supplier DEPA Commercial to challenge a 2019 ruling by an Athens Court of First Instance that vindicated an overcharging claim by ELFE (Hellenic Fertilizers and Chemicals), scheduled to be heard next week, is pivotal for the gas company’s privatization plan.

If ELFE overcomes the appeal lodged by DEPA Commercial – which, as things stand, is expected to return 63 million euros to the fertilizer and chemicals company for overcharged gas supply between 2012 and 2015 – then this precedent will prompt more overcharging cases, for the same period, by other customers, primarily electricity producers and industrial enterprises.

Such a development, which, according to sources, could end up costing DEPA Commercial a total of up to one billion euros in rebates, threatens to derail the company’s privatization procedure as investors would not want to take on such a financial burden. Worse still, DEPA Commercial’s sustainability would be severely tested, the sources added.

DEPA Commercial was formed by gas utility DEPA specifically for its privatization.

The appeals court will require some time before it delivers its verdict. If the ruling is in favor of ELFE, then DEPA Commercial is expected to take the case to the Supreme Court. A prolonged legal battle would surely impact the gas company’s growth plans.

In 2019, the Athens Court of First Instance ruled that DEPA passed on to its customers the cost of an oil-indexed purchase agreement with Russian gas company Gazprom without considering lower prices available at natural gas hubs.

Taking into account this ongoing legal battle, privatization fund TAIPED has set an early-spring deadline for binding bids by potential buyers of DEPA Commercial as well as DEPA Infrastructure, the gas utility’s other new entity.

New minister, just appointed, has issues to resolve in 2021

Kostas Skrekas, just appointed new energy minister as part of the government’s cabinet reshuffle, in place of Costis Hatzidakis, who has headed the ministry for a constructive year and a half, faces a series of pending energy-sector matters that remained unresolved in 2020. They need to be addressed as soon as possible. Developments and conditions this year will be pivotal for these matters.

Skrekas was previously deputy minister for agricultural development and food.

Also in 2021, a year during which takeovers and mergers are seen occurring in the retail electricity and gas markets, rivals will continue battling for market share gains. The target model’s launch two months ago has brought about new conditions, strengthening the positions of vertically integrated suppliers.

The need for a normalization of the target model’s new markets stands as the energy ministry’s most pressing task at present. A sharp rise in wholesale electricity prices as a result of soaring balancing market costs has deeply unsettled the market, impacting the standings of non-vertically integrated suppliers, as well as industrial enterprises and consumers, who face rising bills.

Market coupling with Bulgaria’s day-ahead market, scheduled to take place within the first three months of the new year, is the next step of the target model, a procedure designed to harmonize EU energy markets and promote competition.

New energy-intensive industrial tariffs also need to be set soon. Though essentially a matter concerning state-controlled power utility PPC and Greece’s industrial players, the cost of industrial energy is crucial for Greek industry, carrying particular political and economic weight.

Also, Greece has little time left in its negotiations with Brussels for a framework to offer third parties access to PPC’s lignite-based generation. This issue is no longer as crucial as it once was because the country’s lignite output has been drastically reduced. Even so, it remains important for independent suppliers.

A number of energy-sector privatizations could be completed this year. Gas utility DEPA’s two new entities, DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Commercial, electricity distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, and a tender for a tender for the development of an underground natural gas storage facility (UGS) in the almost depleted natural gas field of “South Kavala” in northern Greece are all on this year’s privatization list.

In renewable energy, the ministry needs to take decisions within the first few months to clarify terms regulating the sector. RES investment interest is currently high. Steps still need to be taken in an ongoing effort to simplify RES licensing procedures, while a legal framework must be established for energy storage, offshore wind farms and hydrogen use.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Investment funds targeted in operator DEDDIE’s 49% sale

Power utility PPC’s forthcoming sale of a 49 percent stake in subsidiary firm DEDDIE/HEDNO, the distribution network operator, will not be limited to potential buyers with energy-market backgrounds, according to the sale’s terms, published yesterday, suggesting the seller is aiming to attract investment funds.

DEDDIE/HEDNO’s investment plan for the next five years is worth 2.3 billion euros, including 850 million euros for a nationwide digital power meter upgrade, an amount the government will seek to draw from the EU recovery fund.

Three major infrastructure funds have already expressed unofficial interest in the operator’s sale through a market test staged by Goldman Sachs, sources informed.

The sale is planned to take place over two stages, beginning with expressions of interest by candidates until a January 29 deadline, followed by a second round of binding bids from second-round qualifiers.

They will be given access to a virtual data room for evaluations before binding offers are shaped and submitted.

The government will aim to complete DEDDIE/HEDNO’s partial privatization in the first half of 2021, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis noted during an online Capital Link Forum staged yesterday.

 

At least 10 candidates emerge for DEDDIE sale’s market test

At least ten prospective bidders, among them a number of infrastructure funds as well as European operators, have taken part in a market test staged by distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO in the lead-up to its sale of a 49 percent stake.

The privatization’s officials have deemed the turnout as considerably satisfactory, both in terms of numbers and the reputations of participants.

Some of the funds, both from Europe and beyond, that emerged for this market test are either already present in the Greek market or have been considering to make an entry for quite some time. They specialize in infrastructure and energy projects as long-term investments.

The board at power utility PPC, DEDDIE/HEDNO’s parent company, will be fully informed on the market test’s participants at a meeting scheduled for today, before the privatization is officially launched.

The privatization’s exact number of first-round participants should become known by the end of January, when the expression-of-interest deadline is expected to be set.

Officials believe the overall sale procedure can be completed by spring in 2021. Attractive WACC levels set recently by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy – 7 percent for 2020 and 6.7 percent for 2021 to 2024 – are expected to lure candidates.

DEDDIE/HEDNO’s ambitious 2.3 billion-euro investment plan, included in the operator’s preliminary network development plan, its projects featuring the installation of 7.5 million digital power meters, transmission network upgrades and expansions, as well as a fiber optics project, should serve as further stimulus for a solid sale price.

RAE to set DEDDIE’s WACC level this week, investors keen

The launch of a privatization procedure to offer a 49 percent stake in distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO should be brought one step closer to its actualization this week as RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, is expected to set a WACC level for 2020, before following up, a few weeks later, within December, with a WACC level covering 2021 to 2024.

These steps are intended to offer investors clarity on the operator’s earning potential.

The distribution network operator’s WACC level for 2021 to 2024 is expected to be set at just below 7 percent, a highly attractive level given the far lower yields offered by respective European distribution network operators.

Investor interest in the forthcoming DEDDIE/HEDNO sale is currently high, energy ministry sources informed. Though no companies were specified, the sources indicated that potential buyers who had surfaced prior to the pandemic remain interested.

Germany’s EON, Italy’s Enel, France’s Enedis and a number of Chinese firms had all expressed interest. Surprise additions to this list cannot be ruled out.

A market test, to measure the level of interest of prospective bidders, is expected to take place next month, immediately following an Investor Day online event planned by state-owned power utility PPC, the operator’s parent company, for early December, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis told a recent energypress conference.

DEDDIE/HEDNO, possessing networks covering 242,000 kilometers, has prepared a major investment plan that includes installation of 7.5 million smart power meters, a project budgeted at 850 million euros, and a digital upgrade of the network. The operator’s assets are valued at 3.6 billion euros.

PPC’s upcoming Investor Day event on strength of good news

Power utility PPC plans to go into early December’s rescheduled Investor Day, an online event organized by the corporation for its presentation of an updated 2021-2023 business plan to international analysts, on the back of favorable developments, including yet another profitable quarter, the fourth in a row, as well as new business openings.

PPC had originally planned Investor Day for last March, in London, but was forced to postpone and reshape for an online version as a result of the pandemic’s outbreak.

A year earlier, PPC was struggling, but the succession of positive quarters has lifted the company into a confident higher flyer.

Its updated business plan will feature more specific goals of greater ambition for the three-year period. They are expected to include a RES market share target of between 15 and 20 percent and capacity of over 1 GW, as well as fresh news on the company’s digital transformation, electromobility effort, commercial policy, and, possibly, an even swifter withdrawal plan for the company’s lignite-fired power stations.

Just days ahead of the Investor Day event PPC will announce a series of favorable developments, namely an initial securitization deal collection of 150 million euros; a higher EBITDA figure for yet another quarter; the launch of a privatization procedure to offer 49 percent of distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, a subsidiary; and, on December 1, financial results for the nine-month period, including a profitable third quarter.

PPC is also expected to announce a further workforce reduction plan and employee shifts from lignite units headed for closure. Earlier this year, the power utility reported a 10 percent payroll cost reduction for the first half.

 

RAE deciding on DEDDIE 2020 WACC, terms for 2021 to 2024

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, intends to reach decisions this week on the WACC and allowable income levels for 2020 of distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, both pending regulatory factors needed ahead of the operator’s privatization.

The authority has already approved a formula determining the required network earnings.

RAE intends to approve the operator’s WACC level for 2021 to 2024 by the end of the year before deciding early in 2021 on the regulated earnings and a network business development plan covering 2021 to 2024.

The distribution network operator’s WACC level for 2021 to 2024 is expected to be set at just below 7 percent, sources informed. Such a level would be seen as highly attractive by investors given the far lower yields offered by respective European distribution network operators.

Decisions on all these regulatory matters will enable prospective buyers to evaluate DEDDIE/HEDNO’s prospects and shape their offers for a 49 percent stake to be offered through the operator’s privatization.

The sale could be completed by the first quarter of 2021. Pundits anticipate the sale price could reach approximately 1.5 billion euros.

In accounting terms, the operator’s fixed assets – networks covering 239,000 kilometers and substations – are worth 3.5 billion euros.

DEDDIE board moves to reduce workforce ahead of privatization

Privatization-headed distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, a subsidiary of power utility PPC, has decided to implement employment term revisions enabling the termination of contracts of workers who, by December 31, have either qualified for pension rights and are at least 63 years of age or have turned 67 and served at the operator or the power utility for a total of at least 15 years.

The operator’s board has also decided to offer aged employees a 20,000-euro bonus as an incentive to hasten departures ahead of the privatization. This bonus will only apply for employees who take up the departure offer by December 31.

The company intends to apply this new employment rule unilaterally if workers belonging to either of the two aforementioned retirement categories do not submit their resignations by the end of 2020.

Employees will be gradually dismissed as of January 31, 2021, beginning with oldest staff members, according to the DEDDIE/HEDNO plan.

Severance pay not exceeding 15,000 euros will be offered to departing employees irrespective of whether they volunteer to retire or end up being dismissed.

Any debt owed by employees to the company will be offset with exit package amounts.

DEDDIE/HEDNO employees serving in highly specialized fields and not instantly replaceable will be exempted from the operator’s new staff exit plan and could have their contracts extended by a year with an option for an additional year for exceptional cases.

DEPA Commercial invites RES companies for collaboration

DEPA Commercial, one of two new entities formed by gas utility DEPA for its upcoming privatization, has invited renewable energy companies with existing production units or advanced projects to express interest in prospective collaborations.

DEPA Commercial is aiming to transform into an energy company with emphasis on green energy activities, chief executive Costas Xifaras has noted.

According to sources, DEPA Commercial is looking to develop a RES portfolio totaling 240 MW.

Related investments at DEPA Commercial are expected to reach 120 million euros, the company head has stated.

DEPA Commercial, interested in both solar and wind energy projects, is looking to acquire RES production licenses and, especially, mature-stage projects, sources informed, adding the company is seriously considering takeovers.

For the time being, DEPA Commercial does not intend to partner with energy groups active in the RES market as well as the company’s privatization procedure.

Besides its plan to expand into the RES market, DEPA Commercial, currently developing major LNG projects, is also exploring the possibility of entering the hydrogen sector.

RAE approval of gas distributor tariffs paves way for DEPA Infrastructure sale

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has approved tariffs for gas utility DEPA’s distribution companies EDA Attiki, covering the wider Athens area, EDA Thess, covering Thessaloniki and Thessaly, and DEDA, covering the rest of Greece, a move that paves the way for the sale of DEPA Infrastructure, one of DEPA’s new entities established for the utility’s privatization procedure.

DEPA Infrastructure is now the parent company of the three distribution firms.

RAE examined tariff-related data submitted by the gas distributors before giving the green light.

The authority hesitated to deliver a decision on distributor tariffs over concerns that connection term discounts offered by the distributors could be regarded as a form of state aid.

RAE also appears to have approved revisions made by the distribution companies to their five-year development plans from 2020 to 2024 after making slight alterations.

The revisions by the gas distributors concern the entry of certain areas to networks as well as more rational use of CNG solutions.

The regulatory authority’s approval of the tariffs, development plans of the distribution companies, and their connection term incentives were all a prerequisite for the continuation of the DEPA Infrastructure sale.

DEDDIE formula for required revenue approved by authority

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has approved a formula determining the required revenue for electricity distribution networks, an important first step towards the finalization of distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO’s regulatory framework, essential for its privatization procedure to offer a 49 percent stake, sources have informed.

A WACC level still needs to be set and approved for the operator. RAE intends to reach a decision by December 31 so that prospective buyers can have even greater clarity on the operator’s potential revenue.

Given the time required for the processing of related data concerning the operator’s regulated earnings and the network’s business development plan for 2021 to 2024, RAE should deliver a decision on the four-year period by March 31, 2021, which would be retroactively applied as of January 1, 2021.

The new framework includes two periods covering 2021-2024 and 2025-2028, offering investors a long-term picture of the investment’s potential yield.

According to sources, the authority intends to set a WACC level of just below 7 percent for 2021-2024, highly attractive for investors given levels of no more than 2.5 percent offered by equivalent distribution network operators around Europe.

RAE plans to launch a market test, to measure the level of investor interest in DEDDIE/HEDNO, next month.

Prior to the pandemic, Germany’s EON, Italy’s Enel, Enedis – an EDF subsidiary – as well as a number of Chinese companies, had expressed interest in the DEDDIE/HEDNO privatization plan.

DEDDIE market test next month, rules framework soon

Goldman Sachs, the privatization consultant for power distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO’s forthcoming sale, plans to stage a market test in November, barring unexpected pandemic-related developments, for a measure of the level of interest of prospective bidders.

This preliminary step in the sale procedure will attract major energy players from Europe and beyond, including funds seeking to invest in infrastructure offering high and stable returns, reliable sources have informed.

A February launch of the privatization by power utility PPC, DEDDIE/HEDNO’s parent company, is considered highly likely. Bidders are expected to be given a two-month period to submit binding offers. If so, officials will be in a position to announce the winning bidder in May, 2021.

Importantly, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, still needs to announce the distribution network operator’s new regulatory framework before the market test can be launched.

A formula determining the operator’s WACC, or yield, is expected to be announced by RAE this week, or, at the very latest, early next week. An official WACC figure, helping bidders shape their bids, should be set in December.

 

DEDDIE’s WACC close to 7%, RAE framework approval soon

Distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO’s new WACC level, determining the yield, required by potential buyers, will be set at just below 7 percent for a four-year period covering 2021 to 2024, energypress sources have informed.

This WACC level, well over rates of no more than 2.5 percent offered by respective European operators, is expected to be seen as a very attractive offer by investors.

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has been given the green light by the energy ministry to hasten proceedings for a launch of the DEDDIE/HEDNO privatization, offering a 49 percent stake, in November, as promised by the ministry.

DEDDIE/HEDNO has awaited RAE’s approval of its new regulatory framework, including the WACC level, to launch the tender. This framework will include an option for a four-year extension, covering 2025 to 2028.

If the privatization is launched next month, it could be completed within the first quarter of 2021.

Market officials have forecast a DEDDIE/HEDNO selling price of close to 1.5 billion euros for the 49 percent stake.

The operator’s assets, essentially comprising networks totaling 239,000 kilometers in length, plus substations, are estimated to be worth 3.5 billion euros.

The DEDDIE/HEDNO business plan for 2021 to 2024, still subject to official approval, should excite investors. It features investments worth 2 billion euros and network 5G add-on potential for a wide range of telephony and internet services.

The prospective installation of 7.5 million digital power meters in place of conventional meters around the country, an upgrade budgeted at 850 million euros, is another strong selling point. Recovery funds will be sought for this project, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis recently informed. This would save the operator a considerable amount.

Germany’s EON, Italy’s Enel, Enedis, a subsidiary of France’s EDF, as well as a number of Chinese companies had showed interest, unofficially, in the DEDDIE/HEDNO sale well before the pandemic broke out.

 

 

Storengy’s Kavala UGS tender exit prompts formation changes

A decision by France’s Storengy (Engie) to not participate in a forthcoming tender offering an underground natural gas storage facility (UGS) license for the almost depleted South Kavala offshore natural gas field in the country’s north has prompted a domino effect of formation changes by groups of investors planning to bid.

GEK TERNA appears to have formed an association with gas grid operator DESFA for the tender after having previously agreed to join forces with Energean Oil & Gas and Storengy.

Energean Oil & Gas, holding a license for the virtually depleted South Kavala field, has not remained an onlooker. The company has also found a partner, believed to be domestic, from the construction sector, according to sources.

To date, Energean Oil & Gas has held talks with three major groups, Mytilineos, AVAX and Aktor, the same sources added.

A Chinese investor is also believed to be interested in the South Kavala UGS tender, staged by privatization fund TAIPED, but will not link up with any partners.

The tender is offering rights for the use, development and exploitation of the virtually depleted offshore natural gas field south of Kavala as a UGS facility for a period of up to 50 years.

Participants must submit first-round, non-binding offers by October 19 following three deadline extensions.

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.

 

South Kavala UGS bidders talk formations as deadline nears

Prospective bidders of an upcoming tender to offer an underground natural gas storage facility (UGS) license for the almost depleted South Kavala offshore natural gas field in the country’s north are deliberating over possible partnerships as the October 19 deadline for official expressions of interest approaches.

Greek gas grid operator DESFA, Energean Oil & Gas and GEK TERNA will participate in the tender, according to enegypress sources, while some market officials believe a Chinese company, not yet revealed, is also interested.

All three Greek companies have remained tight-lipped on possible partnership formations for the tender. GEK TERNA and Energean Oil & Gas are believed to be discussing the prospect of teaming up, while DESFA and the Chinese company will most likely enter the tender alone, energypress sources informed.

The tender, staged by privatization fund TAIPED, will offer rights for the use, development and exploitation of the virtually depleted offshore natural gas field south of Kavala as a UGS facility for a period of up to 50 years.

Investments needed for the project’s development are estimated between 300 and 400 million euros.

The field is located approximately 6 kilometers from the west coast of the island Thasos, in the North Aegean Sea, at a depth of 52 meters.

Its development into a UGS facility promises to contribute to Greece’s energy security and that of southeast Europe.

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.

 

Revision to ensure HEDNO framework for privatization

A legislative revision set to be submitted to parliament by the energy ministry will enable the implementation of a new regulatory framework for DEDDIE/HEDNO, the distribution network operator, as of January 1, 2021, as planned by a revised schedule.

The operator’s new framework, including two four-year periods covering 2021 to 2024 and 2025 to 2028, was initially scheduled to be approved by June 30 but this date was missed as a result of the pandemic’s impact and a leadership change at RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

Besides being crucial for the market’s operation, the new regulatory framework is a prerequisite for the announcement of the operator’s privatization, to offer prospective buyers a 49 percent stake.

The operator’s WACC rate is expected to be announced in the lead up, either this month or next, if no further delays hamper the overall procedure.

DEDDIE sale launch awaiting RAE approval of framework

Distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO is awaiting the approval of its new regulatory framework by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, needed for the launch of a tender concerning the operator’s privatization, to offer investors a 49 percent stake.

As things stand, RAE is expected to give the green light within October, energypress sources informed.

The operator’s new regulatory framework, to be valid for a four-year period, from 2021 to 2024, and feature an option for a four-year extension, was forwarded for public consultation in June, but a change of leadership at RAE early in July delayed the process.

The operator’s new WACC level, determining the yield for potential buyers, is expected to be announced in October or November so that the privatization’s tender can be announced before the end of the year.

At present, the operator’s annual revenue totals 800 million euros.

It remains to be seen if the overall plan will be carried out as planned as the framework’s approval is a complicated task requiring plenty of work, while RAE faces no legal obligation to deliver on schedule.

Last week, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis, speaking at an Economist conference, assured the DEDDIE/HEDNO privatization will begin in November. However, certain pundits contend the current schedule is overoptimistic.

The new DEDDIE/HEDNO business plan – envisaging an increase of investments to a level of between 350 and 400 million euros, annually, considerably higher than previous levels of around 150 million euros; as well as the recruitment of 1,000 staff members for technical posts – cannot be considered complete without a new regulatory framework.

Storengy exits UGS tender, partners seek new operator

France’s Storengy appears to have stepped back from an upcoming tender for the privatization of an underground natural gas storage facility (UGS) at an almost depleted South Kavala offshore natural gas field in the country’s north, energypress understands.

Storengy, a subsidiary of the Engie group, had formed a three-member consortium with Energean Oil & Gas, holder of the South Kavala field’s license, and construction firm GEK-Terna for this tender.

Storengy’s apparent decision to withdraw from the South Kavala tender may be linked to a decision reached two years earlier by Engie for a revision of its international interests and investment plans.

Energean Oil & Gas and GEK-Terna, Storengy’s two partners for the South Kavala tender, remain interested in expressing first-round interest by a September 30 deadline, but to do so, they must find a new partner, a certified gas grid operator, as required by the tender’s regulations.

The two players have subsequently moved closer to gas grid operator DESFA, already eyeing this tender. According to sources, talks between the two sides have commenced. DESFA will need to hold a stake of at least 20 percent in any partnership formed.

Both sides are also believed to be considering other partnership options. Storengy’s withdrawal could also bring in unanticipated European operators.

Investments of approximately 300 to 400 million euros will be needed to develop the South Kavala UGS.

Business plan, better results, new activities in DEPA Commercial VDR

The virtual data room for a forthcoming privatization to offer a 65 percent stake in DEPA Commercial, an offshoot of gas utility DEPA, expected to be opened for potential buyers to assess by the end of this week, will present a business plan, improved financial figures at DEPA, new company activities envisaged, as well as DEPA’s outlook on the course of the country’s natural gas market and the company’s position within it.

According to privatization fund TAIPED’s revised Asset Development Plan, participants will submit binding bids in December.

The field of first-round entries, comprising two consortiums and five companies, will have roughly three months to prepare binding bids, according to the schedule.

Hellenic Petroleum ELPE and Italy’s Edison are one of the privatization’s two participating consortiums, the other formed by power utility PPC and Motor Oil Hellas. The five individual participants are: Mytilineos, TERNA, Copelouzos group, Shell and the Swiss-based MET group.

New partnerships could be established by the field of participants as long as they do not affect the sale’s competition standards and have been approved by TAIPED.

The sale of DEPA Commercial is a major attraction for potential buyers as it offers a big slice of the wholesale and retail markets, including gas supplier Fysiko Aerio Attikis, a subsidiary covering the wider Athens area. Fysiko Aerio Attikis already serves close to 400,000 households and 10,000 businesses.

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.