DEPA Commerce sale may change gas, electricity markets

Ongoing procedures in the sale of DEPA Commerce could serve as a catalyst for major changes in the retail gas and electricity markets, leaving fewer players in these markets.

Challenges of the new era, from electromobility to renewable energy, are expected to soon lead to the establishment of various energy-sector mergers and partnerships in Greece.

Talks between company officials for potential partnerships have proliferated since seven consortiums were confirmed as the qualifiers through to the second and final round in the sale of gas utility DEPA’s commercial division.

Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) chief executive Andreas Siamisiis, during a press conference yesterday, left open the prospect of an entry by an additional partner into the consortium formed by ELPE and Italy’s Edison. This consortium is among the sale’s seven qualifiers.

Such a development could even influence the line-up of electricity supplier Elpedison, a joint venture formed by ELPE and Edison for Greece’s retail market, Siamisiis admitted.

It is believed that fellow qualifiers Motor Oil and Greek power utility PPC, who also joined forces for the DEPA Commerce sale, are moving to expand their consortium for this sale.

Highlight the importance of the DEPA Commerce sale, and its potential to lead to sweeping changes, six major Greek energy companies are involved in the DEPA Commerce sale, a record level of interest for any local energy-market sale in recent years.

Besides the three aforementioned Greek players, Mytilineos, GEK-TERNA and Copelouzos are also vying for DEPA Commerce.

Electricity producers are the market’s biggest gas consumers, which entwines the interests of gas and electricity players.

‘Energy ministry policies crucial in effort to revitalize economy’

The energy ministry’s policies promise to play a pivotal role in the challenge faced by the government to revitalize the national economy following lockdown, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis has noted in an article featuring in GREEK ENERGY 2020, the energypress team’s latest annual publication covering the Greek energy sector.

Action is already being taken by the ministry through a decisive energy-sector agenda that aims for growth and is fully aligned with the European Green Deal, now a key economic growth tool throughout Europe, the minister notes.

New financial tools such as an EU recovery fund, worth 750 billion euros, according to a European Commission proposal, are designed to help the EU achieve its goal of transition towards a zero-emission economy through support for the gradual elimination of fossil-fuel dependence, RES growth and energy savings, the minister writes.

Greece is ready to make the most of this EU support package, effectively an additional NSRF funding program for the country promising capital worth around 32 billion euros, in order to achieve sustainable green-energy growth, according to Hatzidakis.

Besides decarbonization and RES development, other aspects incorporated into the energy ministry’s wider plan include:  electromobility growth; a third Saving at Home subsidy program for domestic energy-efficiency upgrades; reforms for greater competition, transparency and more attractive price offers in the energy market; reduced industrial energy costs; and energy-sector privatizations, the minister notes.

 

Six Greek heavyweights among DEPA Commercial contenders

Six major Greek energy market players are among the contenders through to the second round of the DEPA Commercial sale, the biggest domestic turnout for an energy-sector tender in recent years, highlighting the gas market’s significance and prospects over the next decade.

The country’s energy transition plan is aiming for zero emissions by 2030.

Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE), joined by Italian partner Edison, a Motor Oil and power utility PPC partnership, Mytilineos, Gek-Terna and the Copelouzos group are the six Greek contenders, among a list of seven bidding teams shortlisted for the DEPA Commercial sale’s final round, entailing binding bids.

Gas utility DEPA, from which DEPA Commercial has been established for the utility’s privatization, may have lost its monopoly in the natural gas market, but its assets and market share promise the new owner a leading position during Greece’s decade of decarbonization, electric vehicle market growth and drastic reduction in fuel consumption.

As a result, fierce bidding for DEPA Commercial is expected.

The company’s acquisition will provide the new owner with a portfolio of 350,000 customers plus DEPA Commercial’s international supply contracts with Russia’s Gazprom, supplying pipeline gas to the Greek company for years; Algeria’s Sonatrach, supplying LNG; and Turkey’s Botas.

Gas quantities from Azerbaijan have also been reserved by DEPA Commercial via the imminent TAP route.

 

 

 

Seven bidders through to DEPA Commercial sale’s final round

The Board of Directors of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), during today’s meeting decided, that seven interested parties meet the criteria to participate in Phase B (Binding Offers Phase) of the tender process for the acquisition of 65% of the share capital of DEPA Commercial (Trade) S.A., with an option of acquiring the total of its issued share capital by virtue of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between DEPA S.A. shareholders, HRADF and Hellenic Petroleum S.A. (HELPE), the development fund has announced in a statement.

The prequalified interested parties to participate in Phase B of the tender are (in alphabetical order):

  1. C. G. GAS LIMITED
  2. Consortium HELLENIC PETROLEUM SA & EDISON INTERNATIONAL HOLDING N.V
  3. Consortium MOTOR OIL HELLAS CORINTH REFINERIES SA & PPC SA
  4. GEK TERNA SA
  5. MET HOLDING AG
  6. MYTILINEOS SA
  7. SHELL GAS BV

Following the signing of the relevant Confidentiality Agreement, the prequalified interested parties will receive the documents of Phase B (Binding Offers Phase) and will grant access to the virtual data room (VDR), where data and information related to DEPA Commercial S.A. are uploaded, the statement added.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Flight reconnections, geopolitics key for IPTO sale rescheduling

Rescheduling details of a privatization plan for the sale of an additional stake in power grid operator IPTO will depend on the restart of the Athens-Beijing flight route, the reestablishment of face-to-face contacts blocked by the pandemic, as well as a reduction in geopolitical tension between China and the west.

IPTO’s strategic partner State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), holding a 24 percent stake in the Greek operator, has expressed interest to boost this share. The Chinese company maintains first-offer rights in the event of a further sale.

Skillful diplomacy will clearly be needed to overcome any EU and US objections to an increased SGCC share in IPTO. Video conferences would prove insufficient. Greek foreign ministry officials will need to make at least one trip to China for related talks.

Greek governmnent officials intend to travel to Beijing for work on various matters following the summer, sources informed energypress. Bilateral issues have accumulated during the several months of lockdown. Many cancelled meetings need to be rescheduled.

More crucially, in the lead-up, the Greek side will need to prepare for these Beijng meetings by working through related matters with officials in Brussels and Washington.

PPC picks Goldman Sachs as consultant for DEDDIE sale

The board at power utility PPC has reached a decision to hire US financial services company Goldman Sachs as privatization consultant for the sale of a 49 percent stake in distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, a subsidiary, sources have informed.

This appointment is seen as the first step in preparations leading to the partial privatization, while the choice of a heavyweight consultant reflects the importance of the sale for both the government and state-controlled PPC.

The prospective entry of an investor with a 49 stake raises hopes for a major network upgrade, including digitization. Modernized infrastructure will help intensify competition in the domestic electricity market. However, enormous sums are needed.  A project entailing the installation of smart meters, alone, is budgeted at one billion euros.

European operators as well as foreign funds investing in energy networks and infrastructure expressed strong interest in DEDDIE prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis.

The operator’s regulated earnings and steady yield serve as a safe and profitable haven for capital investment, while DEDDIE’s tremendous asset base expansion potential adds to the appeal for investors.

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, and DEDDIE are currently working together to further modernize the operator’s regulatory framework.

Also, DEDDIE is currently finalizing a new business plan, covering 2020 to 2028. It envisions a gradual increase of annual investments to 350 million euros, more-than-double the current level of 150 million euros.

 

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.

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.

‘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.

Kavala gas storage unit cost-benefit study nearing completion

A cost-benefit analysis being prepared by the privatization fund TAIPED for the development of a gas storage facility at a virtually depleted offshore gas field south of Kavala is nearing completion.

This analysis is needed for the facility’s privatization procedure, whose first-round tender will most likely be launched early in the second half of this year, energypress sources have informed.

TAIPED and RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, are currently exchanging information on project details ahead of the tender.

A joint ministerial decision – another privatization prerequisite – issued last month offers terms and conditions.

Once the cost-benefit analysis has been completed, RAE, according to the ministerial decision, will have four months to determine a pricing policy formula for the south Kavala facility.

Besides private-sector investors, gas grid operator DESFA operator and its shareholders will also be able to participate in the tender on equal terms. The project will operate independently, even if DESFA emerges as the winning bidder.

 

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.

Sale of further stake in IPTO delayed by pandemic’s impact

A privatization procedure for the sale of an additional stake in power grid operator IPTO will not be able to resume for at least another two to three months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic’s negative impact on international markets, highly ranked energy ministry officials have told energypress. The ministry will wait for conditions to recover, the sources noted.

A legislative revision is needed to lift a restriction imposed by the country’s previous leftist Syriza government in 2016 not permitting the Greek State’s stake in IPTO to fall below 51 percent, the current stake held by the Greek State.

Though an amendment ending this restriction has been included in a draft bill covering environmental and RES matters, now headed to parliamentary committees for discussion ahead of ratification, considerable road lies ahead before the sale of a further stake in IPTO can take place.

IPTO’s strategic partner State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), holding a 24 percent stake in the Greek operator, has expressed interest to boost this share. The Chinese company maintains first-offer rights in the event of a further sale.

Following his election victory last July, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leader of the conservative New Democracy party, had announced a further stake of IPTO would be sold.

An official visit to Athens by Chinese president Xi Jinping last November added further impetus to the plan and earlier this year, deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas was planning to visit China for related talks.

However, talks between Athens and Beijing have remained stalled as a result of the pandemic.

 

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.

Long-term HEDNO regulatory terms ahead of privatization

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has begun work on a long-term regulatory framework for distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO following a request by power utility PPC, the operator’s parent company. The distribution operator’s regulatory framework is currently revised annually.

PPC wants a stable, long-term regulatory framework for its subsidiary ahead of its planned privatization as potential buyers will be offered a clearer picture on the operator’s earnings prospects.

The framework, being prepared by RAE in conjunction with the distribution network operator, will take into account various factors and determine the latter’s earnings.

It is believed the new regulatory framework will have a four-year duration, but this detail remains unconfirmed.

PPC’s administration has requested a five-year plan along with terms enabling an extension for a further five years.

The new framework is expected to be completed by June ahead of its implementation at the beginning of 2021. Various trial runs are planned until then.

The distribution operator’s new regulatory framework is expected to include incentives encouraging the achievement of goals such as a reduction of distribution system leakages, network improvements and higher WACC levels.

 

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.

DEPA Trade sale’s PPC-Motor Oil union, Shell return surprise

The privatization of DEPA Trade – a new entity established by gas utility DEPA – offering the Greek State’s 65 percent stake in a procedure whose deadline for first-round offers expired yesterday, produced two surprises. Firstly, Shell reemerged in the country’s gas market following a withdrawal less than two years ago. Secondly, in an unanticipated move, power utility PPC teamed up with Motor Oil for a joint bid.

Shell departed from the Greek natural gas market in July, 2018 by selling its 49 percent stakes in gas supplier EPA Attiki and gas distributor EDA Attiki, both covering the wider Athens region, to DEPA.

Shell received a total of 150 million euros, 39 million for its 49 percent stake in EPA Attiki and 111 million euros for its 49 percent stake in EDA Attiki.

The company’s reemergence can be primarily attributed to an interest in DEPA’s long-term contracts with Gazprom, Sonatrach and Botas, with an eye on the wider Balkan and southeast European regions, sources said.

PPC and Motor Oil decided to join forces for the DEPA Trade sale as a result of the failure of both to secure slots for 2020 at gas grid operator DESFA’s LNG terminal on the islet Revythoussa, just off Athens. PPC holds a 30 percent stake in its partnership with Motor Oil, sources informed.

Following its Revythoussa failure, PPC has been more aggressive in a market test for the Alexandroupoli FSRU, expiring today. PPC wants to secure a capacity at this prospective unit in the country’s northeast as the company is determined to have LNG access. A successful bid in the DEPA Trade sale would bolster this position.

Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) and Edison did not submit a joint bid for DEPA Trade through Elpedison, their joint venture for Greece’s retail energy market, as had been speculated. Instead, they are believed to have made separate bids. The two had not shaped a common action plan in the event of a successful DEPA Trade bid, sources said. However, the establishment of a new joint venture by the two firms at a latter stage, specifically for DEPA Trade, cannot be ruled out.

The country’s planned privatizations, including DEPA Trade, face likely delays as a result of the coronavirus pandemic’s repercussions. The progress of these sales will depend on the course of the pandemic.

DEPA Trade’s first-round bidders forwarded their offers on-line and must follow up with deliveries of official documents by April 24. The evaluation of first-round offers is not expected to begin any sooner than April 25.

DEPA Trade offers due today, at least 7 players interested

Five Greek and two international investment groups are expected to submit bids for the DEPA Trade privatization, whose first-round deadline expires today at 5pm.

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

Bidders may also submit their expressions of interest online, via email, as a result of restrictive measures prompted by the coronavirus crisis, but will need to follow-up with official documents by April 24. The evaluation of first-round offers is not expected to begin any sooner than April 25.

The local bidders expected to submits bids, all leading energy players, are Mytilineos, GEK Terna, Motor Oil, Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) and the Copelouzos group.

ELPE plans to submit a joint bid in partnership with Edison, possibly through Elpedison, their joint venture for Greece’s retail energy market, sources informed.

The Copelouzos group is also working on delivering a joint offer, with Czech firm KKCG.

Shell is among the foreign companies looking interested, despite its sale, two years ago, of stakes in DEPA gas supply and distribution companies.

Dutch firm Vitol is the other foreign player believed to have been drawn to the DEPA Trade sale. Vitol had reached the final stage of an ELPE sale with Algeria’s Sonatrach as a bidding partner, but the pair ended up not submitting a binding offer.

Expressions of interest in DEPA Trade may also come from Swiss-based Hungarian firm Met Energy Holding, active in natural gas wholesale trade. This firm is already present in Hungary, Croatia, Italy, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and Ukraine. Qatar’s Power Global is another possibility.

DEPA Trade’s portfolio includes 409,000 customers – households and businesses.

 

Kavala gas storage unit an independent grid project

A prospective underground gas storage facility at a depleted offshore gas field in the south Kavala region will operate as an independent grid project, the energy ministry has decided, sooner than expected, through a joint ministerial decision reached following a favorable opinion offered by the Legal Advisor of the State.

Just weeks ago, the ministry had indicated it would soon launch a tender for the project’s development but defer a decision on whether the storage facility would operate as an independent or national grid project. However, a deferral may have led to ambiguity, unsettling investors.

As a next step, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, will head an effort for the preparation of a cost-benefit analysis in cooperation with the privatization fund TAIPED, the objective being to complete this study as quickly as possible.

Concurrently, TAIPED intends to begin preparations for an international tender offering the project’s development, usage and exploitation rights for a period of up to fifty years.

TAIPED will most likely stage the tender in June, energypress sources informed.

Besides private-sector investors, the tender will also be open, under equal terms, to Greek gas grid operator DESFA and its stake holders.

Local authorities are pushing to make up for lost time and secure financing for this PCI-categorized project through the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility.

 

Market slump a worry for DEPA Trade sale, gov’t holds firm

Privatization fund TAIPED and the energy ministry, already into the early stages of a sale offering the Greek State’s 65 percent of DEPA Trade, a new entity formed by gas utility DEPA for its privatization, are keeping a close watch on international markets, battered amid fears prompted by the coronavirus spread around the world.

The DEPA Trade sale, an emblematic energy-sector privatization, had already been given a first-round deadline extension for non-binding bids, until March 23, prior to the latest coronavirus-related market concerns. But the worsening international conditions, which prompted markets to plunge on Monday, have made the DEPA Trade sale’s officials far more vigilant.

Though an improvement of market conditions by the DEPA Trade privatization’s March 23 non-binding deadline cannot be ruled out, authorities are certainly  concerned for a number of reasons.

DEPA Trade does not offer investors secured WACC levels, as is the case with networks and infrastructure, including DEPA Infrastructure, power grid operator IPTO and distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO. This absence of a fixed yield makes DEPA Trade’s value susceptible to international and domestic market turmoil.

Also, far lower LNG prices at present represent an unfavorable development for DEPA Trade as the company is committed to pipeline natural gas import agreements with take-or-pay clauses. This restricts the firm’s ability to choose.

In addition, investors, local and foreign, inevitably revise investment plans, or, at best, wait, when faced by overwhelming situations such as the coronavirus outbreak.

Furthermore, any market-slump period is not a good time to sell assets. Should markets remain unsettled for an extended period, the market value of DEPA Trade will be impacted.

The government plan remains unchanged, the DEPA Trade privatization still being at an early stage, energy ministry officials told energypress.

 

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.

DEPA Trade sale threatened by unfinished ELFE pricing case

An unfinished legal battle between gas utility DEPA and ELFE (Hellenic Fertilizers and Chemicals), recently vindicated by an Athens Court of First Instance verdict calling for a 63 million-euro return from the gas utility for gas supply overcharging, threatens to block the launch of a privatization offering 65 percent of DEPA Trade, a new DEPA entity established for the privatization, despite strong investor interest.

The Court of First Instance decision in favor of ELFE, delivered four months ago, is a major blow for DEPA’s finances as the sum could potentially balloon if other firms follow the example set by ELFE and also take legal action, authorities have stressed.

The court ruled that DEPA overcharged ELFE between 2010 and 2015 by applying an oil-indexed gas pricing formula used by Russia’s Gazprom.

DEPA is expected to win an appeal as the utility is backed by a strong case, sector experts have pointed out.

If, however, ELFE ultimately proves these predictions wrong and wins the case then other companies supplied by DEPA, including electricity producers, would be prompted to take legal action of their own against the utility, taking advantage of the legal precedent. This would require DEPA to return sums worth hundreds of millions of euros, in addition to the ELFE amount.

Subsequently, the DEPA Trade sale cannot proceed with such ambiguity hanging in the air as prospective bidders will simply not turn up and submit binding bids if all is not clear.

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.

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.

 

Operating status decision on Kavala gas storage unit later

The energy ministry is considering to soon launch a tender for the development of an underground gas storage facility at a depleted offshore gas field in the south Kavala region and defer a crucial decision on whether the facility will operate as an independent or national grid project for a latter date, energypress sources have informed.

The ministry wants to move ahead as fast as possible to meet EU funding deadlines for this project, on Brussels’ PCI list.

Prospective investors should not be concerned about the impact of this decision on their investment plans as the project’s status, whether independent or part of the national grid, will not affect the tender’s participation terms and conditions, energy ministry sources contended.

However, this element of ambiguity could unsettle investors and cause further delays, pundits have warned.

The pending decision on whether to classify the facility as an independent or national grid project appears to be the reason why the energy ministry has delayed issuing a related ministerial decision.

A ministerial decision is needed to clarify legal matters concerning the project as well as its pricing policy, regulated earnings and minimum yield. Privatization fund TAIPED needs this information to launch the tender.

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.