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.

 

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 Infrastructure VDR open, DEPA Commercial data soon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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.

 

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.

 

PPC expects major LNG tender turnout for 2.7 million MWh

Gas suppliers are expected to turn up in numbers for a power utility PPC tender expiring today with offers to provide three LNG shipments needed by the utility between March and May. PPC plans to purchase a total of 2.66 million MWh through this tender.

Between nine and ten gas suppliers, including major Greek and foreign LNG players, will submit offers, PPC has been informed, according to energypress sources.

Besides leading Greek gas traders, the procedure is expected to attract companies such as Rosneft, Eni Trading, Gunvor, Glencore, Shell, Cheniere and Tellurian.

All participants were required to sign Master Sale Agreements, committing them to their offers without any revisions.

PPC wants a first LNG shipment of 900,000 MWh on March 24, a second delivery of 815,000 MWh on April 21 and a third of 950,000 MWh on May 20.

Today’s tender confirms a change of strategy by PPC, searching markets around the world, from Asia to Qatar and the USA to Russia, for low-priced LNG.

The continual drop in LNG prices promises major cost savings for a company the size of PPC, requiring 1.35 bcm per year.

 

ND, if elected, wants 65% DEPA sale, not split and sale

The main opposition New Democracy party, if victorious in the July 7 snap elections, intends to privatize gas utility DEPA as one corporate entity, through the sale of a 65 percent stake, rather than through a split-and-sale procedure offering separate trading and infrastructure entities, as has been promoted by the ruling Syriza government, currently well behind in polls.

The role of Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE), holding a 35 percent share of DEPA, will be influential when the time comes to make decisions.

Up until now, ELPE has indicated it would be interested in acquiring a 65 percent stake of DEPA Trade – one of the two DEPA entities envisioned by the government for the utility’s split and sale – either alone or with Italy’s Edison, ELPE’s strategic partner.

However, ELPE’s main shareholder, the Latsis group’s Paneuropean Oil, holding a 45.5 percent share, could revise its stance if DEPA’s new sale procedure is redrafted from scratch, as would most probably be the case with a conservative ND election victory.

During a parliamentary debate in March, ND party representatives clearly opposed Syriza’s plan for a DEPA split, describing it as an unnecessary, excessive and complicated approach that would ultimately suppress DEPA’s market value.

The DEPA split, forged by the energy ministry, is not listed as a bailout term, but the country did commit itself to a reduced retail gas market presence for DEPA. This demand was met some time ago when DEPA withdrew from gas supply firm EPA Thessaloniki-Thessaly and acquired Shell’s stakes in EPA Attiki and EDA Attiki, respective supply and distribution firms covering the wider Athens area.

 

 

EDEY to drum up Greek oil, gas hopes at Italy, Romania events

Spurred by recent significant gas field discoveries at Cypriot and Egyptian offshore blocks and the favorable prospects these have generated for the wider region, top officials at EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, will be looking to attract major foreign investors to new Greek blocks at two industry events in Italy and Romania.

EDEY chairman Yiannis Basias, who is in Ravenna, Italy today to attend the Offshore Mediterranean Conference & Exhibition, a leading industry event, will be exploring the potential interest of oil majors, including Italy’s ENI, for new offshore blocks in the Ionian Sea and off Crete to soon be licensed out.

EDEY chief’s deputy Spyros Bellas will follow up this effort in Bucharest at the Balkans & Black Sea Cooperation Forum, scheduled to take place April 4 and 5.

Tristan Aspray, ExxonMobil’s Vice President of Exploration for Europe, Russia, and the Caspian, hailed the wider region’s prospects at the recent Delphi Economic Forum in Greece. ExxonMobil is currently involved in exploration work being carried out in Romania.

Speaking earlier this month at London’s Global APPEX (Prospect & Property Expo), an event organized by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), Bellas, EDEY’s deputy, presented a road map of Greece’s hydrocarbon plans for 2019 to officials of foreign companies as well as latest and more detailed geological data on the Ionian Sea and Cretan regions. This data was processed by Norway’s PGS.

The strategy adopted at EDEY is to plan tenders for offshore blocks based on the interest expressed by foreign investors at this series of meetings.

Besides ENI and ExxonMobil, EDEY is seeking to convince Repsol, Shell and other US majors of Greece’s hydrocarbon prospects.

 

 

DEPA’s EPA Attiki takeover a competition woe, officials react

Unfavorable results produced by gas utility DEPA’s most recent gas release auction, which sparked a surge in prices and severely limted amounts made available to independent suppliers, have sparked protests by market officials over a recent Greek competition committee decision approving DEPA’s acquisition of a 49 percent share held by Shell in their EPA Attiki supply venture, covering the wider Athens area.

The agreement gives DEPA, already holding a 51 percent stake, full control of the EPA Attiki supply firm and threatens to keep independent players out of the retail gas market.

The threat had been raised during Greek competition committee hearings ahead of the agreement’s local approval. Officials who opposed the DEPA-Shell agreement warned it would prompt market competition complications but were told EPA Attiki was headed for privatization as part of the DEPA sale.

However, the DEPA sale has been held back by a series of deferrals. It could take many more months to stage. During this time, retail gas market competition will remain subdued.

Despite the warnings and market issues now emerging, the Greek competition committee offered a swift and unconditional approval the DEPA-Shell agreement.

DEPA’s gas release auctions were introduced as a structural plan to promote market competition and reduce the gas utility’s market dominance.

The main power utility PPC secured the biggest amounts at DEPA’s most recent gas release auction. The gas amounts left for independent players were also severely restricted by substantial purchases from EPA Attiki, now fully controlled by DEPA.

Commenting on the resulting set up, one market official described the situation as DEPA selling gas quantities intended for independent players to itself.

Authorities are now expected to scrutinize the issue.

DEPA set for more ambitious Athens network growth plan

The gas utility DEPA appears determined to adopt a more ambitious development and investment plan for its Athens networks now that the local Competition Committee has approved its agreement with Shell for an acquisition of the latter’s 49 percent share in their EPA Attiki supply and EDA Attiki distribution ventures, both covering the wider Athens region. DEPA already holds majority 51 percent stakes in both.

The leadership at DEPA considers the existing EDA Attiki development plan as being too weak, sources informed. The upgraded plan is expected to feature more ambitious projects in areas already covered as well as new projects in new territory.

The current five-year plan for EDA Attiki limits the distribution network’s development to 35.5 kilometers by 2022, an average of 7.1 kilometers per year. It primarily concerns network construction in areas where networks already exist, for increased density, and neglects expansions into new areas.

Competition Committee ruling on DEPA-Shell deal by Monday

The local Competition Committee is expected to deliver a decision Monday on gas utility DEPA’s agreement to acquire Shell’s 49 percent share of the EPA Attiki gas supply and EDA Attiki gas distribution ventures covering the wider Athens area. DEPA already holds the majority 51 percent in these arrangements.

Motor Oil opposed the agreement and called for its rejection by the committee at a lengthy hearing held yesterday, while DEPA supported its takeover initiative. The committee informed it will issue its ruling by Monday.

Former DEPA chief executive Theodoros Kitsakos, who was replaced several months ago, noted that a better deal could have been achieved as it was prompted by Shell’s decision to withdraw from the Greek market, adding EDA Attiki sale was not a bailout requirement.

The sale price agreed to – EBITDA profit multiplied by 7.5 – is excessive, according to Kitsakos, who also condemned a clause requiring DEPA to pay Shell interest payments until the sale agreement is finalized.

A committee decision is needed for DEPA’s privatization procedure, involving a company split, to continue.

The privatization plan entails selling a 51 percent stake of DEPA Trade, representing the utility’s commercial interests, and a minority 49 percent of DEPA Infrastructure, as the government wants the Greek State to maintain its control of the country’s gas networks.

Taxation, personnel transfer details delaying DEPA split plan

Taxation details concerning a gas utility DEPA split plan ahead of its privatization are believed to be keeping energy ministry officials from reaching a final decision on the split’s formation, or whether the development will entail a full or partial split of utility networks for transfers of resulting stakes into a new DEPA subsidiary.

DEPA wholly owns gas distributor EDA Attiki and DEDA and also maintains a 51 percent stake in EDA Thessaloniki.

The split has been incorporated into a double-fronted privatization procedure of state-controlled DEPA’s infrastructure and commercial interests. The government is pursuing a course to maintain the Greek State’s control of DEPA infrastructure.

The shareholder make-up of the new subsidiary will be pivotal to the decision. It has yet to be decided if DEPA or its current shareholders, ELPE-Hellenic Petroleum (35%) and the Greek State (65%), will own this new subsidiary. The energy ministry is currently calculating which option could be preferable in terms of taxation.

Payroll matters concerning personnel transfers are also holding up the energy ministry. Employees at the gas utility’s EPA and EDA Attiki supply and distribution ventures have been on payrolls regulated by private-sector rules as a result of Shell’s 49 percent stake. Shell has agreed to sell this stake to DEPA.

The Competition Committee has rescheduled a meeting on the matter for tomorrow, three days sooner than originally planned.

 

DEPA infrastructure split likeliest development at utility ahead of sale

A full or partial separation of gas utility DEPA’s infrastructure from the parent company appears to be the likeliest development in the corporation’s much-discussed split as part of its privatization plan.

The corporation’s resulting corporate stature would remain unchanged if a full or partial split of its infrastructure division is pursued. This would not be so if the trade division were split as a new tax file number and new company would need to be established.

In the latter case, DEPA’s suppliers – Gazprom, Sonatrach and Botas – would need to offer their consent as their existing supply contracts with the gas Greek utlity would need to be transferred to a new company. Their consent cannot be taken for granted. Even if the trio were to agree, privatization-related time, which is running out, could be needed to overcome various objections.

DEPA’s local takeover agreement with Shell still needs to be endorsed by a local Competition Committee. DEPA has agreed to acquire Shell’s 49 percent share of the EPA Attiki gas supply and EDA Attiki gas distribution ventures covering the wider Athens area. DEPA already holds the majority 51 percent in these ventures.

The announcement of a tender concerning the privatization of DEPA Trade, originally intended for November, now appears set for a delay and will most likely be rescheduled for within 2019, a tricky period, as next year will be an election year.

Competition Committee ruling on DEPA-Shell deal at end of month

Now a month into its full investigation of the DEPA gas utility’s local takeover agreement with Shell, the local Competition Committee appears most likely to require the entirety of a 45-day limit permitted for the procedure by law before delivering its decision towards the end of October, officials involved in the process have informed.

DEPA has agreed to acquire Shell’s 49 percent share of the EPA Attiki gas supply and EDA Attiki gas distribution ventures covering the wider Athens area. DEPA already holds the majority 51 percent in these ventures.

The investigation of the DEPA-Shell agreement was deemed necessary as the deal could constitute an over-accumulation of power for DEPA.

The investigation is not believed to have produced any competition-related concerns so far. However, the committee’s board will ultimately have the final say as to whether DEPA will need to make any revisions or commitments before its takeover deal is endorsed.

A related hearing, part of the investigation, could be held next week. DEPA officials and any third parties that may be against the DEPA-Shell agreement will be summoned by the committee’s board for the hearing. Third parties with objections are not expected to emerge, developments so far have suggested.

The DEPA-Shell deal’s endorsement will pave the way for the DEPA privatization, its first step requiring legislation for a split of the gas utility into two corporations, DEPA Trade and DEPA Infrastructure.

 

Three DEPA options still on the table as draft bill date nears

Three basic scenarios are still being considered for a split plan at gas utility DEPA, while a final decision is expected within the first couple of weeks of October, which will enable the energy ministry to complete the plan’s draft bill.

One option entails splitting DEPA’s trade and infrastructure sections from its existing core for the establishment of two new enterprises, DEPA Trade and DEPA Infrastructure.

Though this scenario has not been ruled out, it stands little chance of being pursued as DEPA’s existing obligations with customers and other parties limits how much it can change its corporate structure, energypress sources explained.

A second option being considered entails splitting the commercial activity from DEPA for  possible incorporation with EPA Attiki, a gas supply venture covering the wider Athens area. DEPA holds a 51 percent stake in EPA Attiki and has agreed to acquire a 49 percent stake held by Shell. Such an outcome would give EPA Attiki a leading role in Greece’s developing natural gas market. A local competition committee recently decided to further investigate this EPA-Shell agreement. The process is expected to last 45 days.

A third option entails splitting the infrastructure from DEPA’s core.

 

 

Competition committee key to DEPA-Shell deal, utility privatization

A Competition Committee decision on the DEPA gas utility’s local takeover agreement with Shell, crucial for the outcome of the utility’s privatization, could be delivered today.

DEPA and Shell have stuck a deal entailing the Greek utility’s acquisition of the Dutch firm’s 49 percent share of the EPA Attiki gas supply and EDA Attiki gas distribution ventures covering the wider Athens area. DEPA already holds the majority 51 percent in these ventures.

Competition Committee officials are examining whether the DEPA-Shell deal would constitute an over-accumulation of power. The committee’s examination is focused on DEPA’s dominance as a gas supplier in the wider Athens market combined with its key role in the country’s wholesale gas market.

The time it will take to complete this examination will determine the ensuing DEPA privatization’s schedule.

The DEPA-Shell agreement is planned to serve as a basis for a plan to split DEPA into two corporations, DEPA Trade and DEPA Infrastructure.

According to TAIPED, the state privatization fund, a draft bill for DEPA’s split needs to be submitted to parliament in October, while non-binding bids in a tender for DEPA Trade, the first part of the sale, are planned for November.

A 50.1 percent stake of DEPA”s trading firm is expected to be offered to investors. The Greek State is expected to retain a 51 percent stake in DEPA Infrastructure.

Certain pundits do not expect the DEPA privatization procedure to be completed before the summer of 2019. Municipal, European Parliament and national elections are all due in 2019, which has raised fears of DEPA privatization delays.

Tougher inspection may delay DEPA-Shell deal, privatization

A recent takeover agreement between Greek gas utility DEPA and Shell concerning the former’s acquisition of the Dutch firm’s 49 percent share of the EPA Attiki gas supply and EDA Attiki gas distribution ventures covering the wider Athens area could be delayed, if not forced to change, by local Competition Committee concerns over the deal’s impact on market competition. Subsequently, a privatization plan for DEPA could also be delayed.

The committee is considering launching a full-scale inspection on the resulting accumulation of power the agreement with Shell would offer DEPA, already holding a 51 percent majority in these Athens supply and distribution ventures prior to the deal.

According to sources, the gas utility is expecting a committee decision, on whether to conduct an in-depth investigation or clear the deal, on September 17. Should a full-scale inspection be launched, the committee will have 90 days to deliver a decision. If this period elapses, then the DEPA-Shell agreement will be automatically approved.

In July, DEPA announced it had agreed to acquire Shell’s 49 percent in the EPA Attiki gas supply and EDA Attiki gas distribution ventures for 150 million euros.

On another front, the Greek gas utility’s withdrawal from the Zenith gas supply company covering the country’s north, through the sale, for 57 million euros, of a 51 percent stake in this venture to Italy’s Eni, previously a minority partner with a 49 percent share, has been endorsed.

DEPA sale schedule now rests with Competition Committee

An on-schedule launch of the DEPA gas utility’s privatization procedure will depend on the time it will take the Competition Committee to approve a recent local takeover agreement between DEPA and Shell concerning the Greek gas utility’s acquisition of the Dutch firm’s 49 percent share of the EPA Attiki gas supply and EDA Attiki gas distribution ventures covering the wider Athens area.

DEPA went into the negotiations with Shell already holding 51 percent stakes in these joint ventures. The deal was reached for a price of 150 million euros.

If the Competition Committee approves the DEPA-Shell agreement by September, then the DEPA privatization could begin on schedule, in September or October, with the gas utility’s split into two firms, DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Trade, as agreed to by the government and the country’s lenders for the privatization.

According to the plan, a 50.1 percent stake of the trading firm is expected to be offered to investors while 14.9 percent, including veto rights, will be maintained by the Greek State. As a second stage of the privatization, the Greek State’s offering to investors of DEPA Infrastructure will be limited to a minority stake of no less than 14 percent. The Greek State is expected to retain a 51 percent stake in DEPA Infrastructure.

The gas utility’s privatization procedure will most likely be delayed until 2019 if the Competition Committee requires an extended period to examine the DEPA-Shell agreement.

Pundits closely following the developments have not ruled out delays in the DEPA privatization procedure.

Greek petroleum group Motor Oil Hellas lodged an official complaint to the Competition Committee over the DEPA-Shell agreement while it was still in the making, noting it would enable DEPA to dominate natural gas supply in the wider Athens area. Motor Oil plans to soon enter Greece’s natural gas retail market through its subsidiary Coral (Shell).

DEPA, whose repositioning in Greece’s natural gas retail market was included as a bailout term, has also reached a deal with Italy’s Eni. DEPA agreed to withdraw from the Zenith gas supply company covering the country’s north by selling its 51 percent stake in this venture to the Italian firm, previously a minority partner with a 49 percent share.

At least three key players, Mytilineos, the Copelouzos group and ELPE, which already holds a 35 percent stake in DEPA, have expressed an unofficial interest for DEPA Trade.

These players, as well as others who have yet to disclose their interest, all see DEPA Trade as an enterprise that is ready for robust business given DEPA’s experience, existing customer base and foreign deals. More crucially, the investors also see a company that is soon expected to wholly own the EPA and EDA supply and distribution firms which, until recently, monopolized the retail gas market in the wider Athens area.

 

Copelouzos group emerges as latest DEPA Trade candidate

The Copelouzos group has stepped forward to made clear its interest in a 51 percent stake of DEPA Trade, gas utility DEPA’s forthcoming subsidiary to be offered as part of a bailout-required privatization along with a minority stake in DEPA Infrastructure, the DEPA sale’s other subsidiary in the making.

The Copelouzos group is the latest major player to have emerged as a prospective buyer of DEPA Trade. Mytilineos and ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), holding a 35 percent stake in DEPA, have both already declared they will bid for DEPA Trade.

Mytilineos and ELPE expressed their interest in DEPA Trade immediately following the recent unveiling of the DEPA privatization model. More interested investors are expected to emerge, including Motor Oil Hellas (MOH).

Just recently, Motor Oil Hellas made known an intention to enter the retail natural gas market through the fuel station network controlled by its subsidiary Coral.

Motor Oil Hellas has lodged an appeal to the competition committee against a local takeover agreement between DEPA and Shell, selling its 49 percent stake in their EPA Attiki natural gas supply joint venture, covering the wider Athens area, to DEPA. The gas utility already holds a 51 percent share of this joint venture and, as a result, will fully control own EPA Attiki.

DEPA already holds the biggest gas supply contracts in the country’s wholesale market and a complete takeover of EPA Attiki would offer the gas utility an unfair advantage over competitors, Motor Oil Hellas argues.

Without a doubt, the prospective field of DEPA Trade bidders sees major potential in the country’s natural gas market. The gas utility’s vast experience, existing client base and major wholesale gas agreements are all seen as big positives generating interest for DEPA Trade. Control of EPA Attiki, a key retail market player, promised by a 51 percent stake in DEPA Trade, is another prospect exciting investors.

DEPA, Shell agreement to be finalized next week

An agreement reached between DEPA, public gas corporation, and Shell, for the Greek gas utility’s acquisition of the Dutch firm’s 49 percent share of the EPA Attiki gas supply and EDA Attiki gas distribution ventures covering the wider Athens area, is expected to be finalized next week.

The gas utility’s shareholders – TAIPED, the state privatization fund, controlling 65 percent of DEPA, and ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), holding the other 35 percent – are expected to approve the agreement at a shareholders’ meeting on Tuesday, energypress sources have informed, which will clear the way for DEPA and Shell to sign their local takeover agreement. Less than a fortnight ago, the DEPA board approved the DEPA-Shell agreement.

Once the two sides have signed, the agreement will be forwarded to the competition committee for approval, not expected any sooner than August.

As has been previously reported by energypress, DEPA’s takeover agreement with Shell was reached for 150 million euros – approximately 39 million euros for the EPA gas supply company and 111 million euros for the EDA distribution company. The total amount is within the value range estimated by the gas utility’s consultants – close to the lower end.

In another agreement, DEPA stands to collect 52 million euros for the sale of its 51 percent stake in the Zenith gas supply company in the north to Italy’s Eni, plus five million euros for dividends. This amount is also within the gas utility’s evaluation range – towards the higher end.

The finalization of all three agreements represents the completion of the first stage of DEPA’s transformation. The next step will entail splitting the gas company into two firms, DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Trade, before selling 51 percent of the trading firm.

“The next stage, once again protecting the interests of the company, shareholders, workers, as well as DEPA’s historic role in the transmission of natural gas in Greece, begins now,” an official with a key role in the developments told energypress.

DEPA board unanimously OKs Shell local takeover agreement

The board at DEPA, the public gas corporation, yesterday unanimously approved an agreement reached with Shell just days ago following prolonged negotiations for the gas utility’s acquisition of the Dutch firm’s 49 percent share of the EPA Attiki gas supply and EDA Attiki gas distribution ventures covering the wider Athens area.

This development had been preceded by DEPA’s finalized agreement with Italy’s Eni for the latter’s full acquisition of the EPA Thessaloniki-Thessaly gas supply company, commercially dubbed Zenith. This agreement is now being examined by the competition committee. A final decision is expected by the end of this month.

Returning to DEPA’s agreement with Shell, the gas utility’s shareholders – TAIPED, the state privatization fund, controls 65 percent and ELPE, Hellenic Petroleum, the other 35 percent – are expected to decide within the next fortnight before this agreement is forwarded to the competition committee for approval. A finalized decision by the committee is anticipated by August.

The agreement between DEPA and Shell was reached for 150 million euros – approximately 40 million euros for the EPA gas supply company and 110 million euros for the EDA distribution company. The total amount is within DEPA’s evaluation range – close to the lower end.

DEPA stands to collect 52 million euros for the sale of its 51 percent in the Zenith gas supply company in the north to Eni, plus five million euros for dividends. This amount is also within the gas utility’s evaluation range, towards the higher end, according to data provided by the utility’s financial advisers.

DEPA’s three agreements, heralded as a major achievement by the government, given the bailout’s prior action restrictions and deadlines, represent the completion of the first stage of the gas utility’s transformation following its withdrawal from the retail gas market in Greece’s north and bolstered position in the wider Athens market.  These agreements now clear the way for the commencement of DEPA’s privatization.

The gas utility realized, from early on, that it would need to reinforce its standing in infrastructure and realign itself in the retail gas market to remain competitive amid the newly liberalized, competitive market, pundits told energypress.

DEPA also needed to find solutions to meet bailout obligations, their objective more or less being to break the gas utility’s local dominance, which is why the company worked closely with the energy ministry on many position papers, negotiations with the lenders and board decisions.

 

 

DEPA strikes takeover deal with Shell, guarantees included

DEPA, the public gas corporation, and Shell concluded long-running negotiations over the weekend for the former’s acquisition of the Dutch firm’s 49 percent share of the EPA Attiki gas supply and EDA Attiki gas distribution ventures covering the wider Athens area.

The two sides needed to stretch a June 6 deadline agreed to by the government and country’s lenders before striking a deal. It is expected to be approved by the DEPA board tomorrow while an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting is expected to immediately follow for final approval. TAIPED, the state privatization fund, now control’s DEPA’s 65 percent and ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) holds the other 35 percent.

The agreement between DEPA and Shell was reached for 150 million euros, as had become widely known long before the weekend’s deal.

Following much resistance, the Dutch firm ended up providing long-term guarantees covering any pending tax issues that may arise in the future, including tax matters or accidents resulting from faulty infrastructure development. Also, Shell has committed to terms that would block any future market reentry attempt by the Dutch firm, including indirectly, as a member of an investment scheme, or via any special purpose vehicle (SPV).

Shell was represented in its EPA Attiki joint venture with DEPA, the majority partner with a 51 percent stake, through a special purpose vehicle (SPV).

Once finalized, the DEPA-Shell deal will need to be endorsed by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition. The same goes for DEPA’s agreement already reached with Italy’s ENI for the latter’s acquisition of the Greek gas utility’s 51 percent in the EPA Thessaloniki-Thessaly gas supply company. ENI initially went into this joint venture holding a 49 percent stake and now stands to gain full control of the gas supply firm for 57 million euros. However, DEPA will maintain its 51 percent stake in the EDA distribution company covering the Thessaloniki-Thessaly area.

The completion of all these matters will enable the DEPA privatization plan, to offer investors two separate subsidiraries representing the utility’s trading and infrastructure divisions, to go ahead. According to energy ministry sources, DEPA’s considerable cash deposits for 2017, totaling 250 million euros, will be divided between the two prospective subsidiaries.

The Greek State intends to sell a 50.1 percent stake of DEPA’s trading subsidiary, which is expected to draw major investor interest, and retain a 14.9 percent for veto rights concerning matters of strategic importance, especially international gas supply agreements. Two major Greek players, Mytilineos and ELPE, as well as European firms have already expressed interest.

As for DEPA’s infrastructure subsidiary, the Greek State will initially maintain its current stake of 65 percent and, depending on decisions to be taken at ELPE for its 35 percent stake in the gas utility, could sell a 14 percent stake to keep 51 percent.

Recent competition committee action taken by Motor Oil to protested  DEPA’s EPA Attiki takeover plan, promising to give the gas utility control of the wholesale and supply markets in the wider Athens area, could prove to be an obstacle.

Speaking on the sidelines of an Economist conference in Athens last week, energy ministry officials appeared unperturbed. They pointed out that DEPA’s presence is being reduced to one supply firm from two, while adding this development will be followed by the sale of a majority stake in DEPA’s prospective subsidiary representing the trading division.

 

 

 

 

Ministry pushing for DEPA-Shell agreement, guarantees sought

Long-running negotiations between DEPA, the public gas corporation, and Shell concerning the former’s acquisition of the Dutch firm’s 49 percent share of the EPA Attiki gas supply and EDA Attiki gas distribution ventures covering the wider Athens area, now well past a June 6 deadline agreed to by the government and country’s lenders, failed to produce a finalized agreement at a meeting yesterday, which was intended to be the closing session, and will require an additional session today.

Greece’s energy ministry is applying heavy pressure on DEPA for a finalized agreement, believed to be worth 150 million euros. Price is not the issue. Instead, the delay has been attributed to guarantees demanded by DEPA to ensure the deal will not be breached at a future date.

DEPA wants Shell’s full market withdrawal through terms that would block any future market reentry attempt by the Dutch firm, including indirectly, as a member of an investment scheme.

For its EPA Attiki joint venture with DEPA, the majority partner with a 51 percent stake, Shell was not represented directly or through a subsidiary but a special purpose vehicle (SPV).

During yesterday’s meeting, DEPA officials made clear there will be no final agreement unless protective clauses demanded by the gas utility are included in the deal.

DEPA is also pushing for a term that would safeguard the Greek gas utility against any pending issues that may arise in the future, including tax matters or accidents resulting from faulty infrastructure development. Shell has yet to agree to such commitments.

In parliament, Democratic Alignment MP Giorgos Arvanitidis tabled a question demanding a full update from energy minister Giorgos Stathakis on the Shell-DEPA negotiations, including the progress of talks and the level of significance of an agreement for the ensuing privatization of DEPA.

The energy minister was also asked to confirm whether a 150 million-euro price for the agreement has been set and, if so, provide details on the criteria used given the fact that the negotiations are still in progress.

Arvanitidis also questioned if DEPA shareholders have offered their approval and sought confirmation of an alleged 4 million-euro fee for Rothschild, the gas utility’s consultant on matter.

Major battle in the making for upcoming DEPA privatization

The upcoming privatization of DEPA, the public gas corporation, is expected to develop into a fierce contest between major Greek energy market players.

Yesterday, Evangelos Mytilineos, CEO of the Mytilineos corporate group, made no secret of his interest in DEPA’s commercial division to be offered to investors. This was preceded by ELPE’s (Hellenic Petroleum) interest for a presence in the natural gas market. Motor Oil Hellas has also noted it envisions a strong future in this specific market.

The main power utility PPC yesterday declared its intention to become active in the retail natural gas market, possibly within the current year. However, as a state-run firm, PPC will not be eligible to participate in the DEPA privatization.

The government and country’s lenders have agreed on a DEPA sale model entailing a split of the gas utility into two subsidiaries representing its commercial and distribution network divisions, respectively, for the privatization.

Motor Oil Hellas has filed a complaint to the competition committee over DEPA’s close-to-finalized effort to acquire Shell’s 49 percent of their EPA Attiki joint venture covering supply in the wider Athens area. DEPA already holds a 51 percent stake. This complaint could turn into legal action. Motor Oil Hellas is troubled by this sale plan as a private-sector investor is selling its stake to a state-run firm with a dominant market share.

Motor Oil Hellas is interested in the retail gas market section of EPA Attiki. The petroleum firm is less enthusiastic about EPA Attiki’s wholesale activity, including DEPA’s supply contracts with producers and importers.

On the contrary, the Mytilineos group is interested in the full range of DEPA’s commercial activity. The enterprise is already very active in the wholesale natural gas market as an LNG importer. Mytilineos has also established a direct trading partnership with Gazprom and is believed to be negotiating a deal with another major player.

ELPE, holding a 35 percent stake of DEPA, has also declared it envisions a gas market role, either through DEPA or independently. ELPE could bid for DEPA’s commercial subsidiary, as long as it is ensured a majority stake and managerial control of this enterprise.

A foreign energy firm already active in the Greek market as a member of a consortium is believed to be interested in DEPA’s distribution networks, according to energypress sources.

Despite the early interest shown by investors in the DEPA sale, indicating conditions are now appropriate, the specifics of DEPA’s privatization model have yet to be finalized. In his comments yesterday, the Mytilineos group’s CEO forecast that the DEPA sale will go ahead and be completed this time round following a stalled attempt back in 2013.

 

 

 

 

DEPA, Shell agreement still not reached as deadline expires

Long-running negotiations between DEPA, the public gas corporation, and Shell concerning the former’s acquisition of the Dutch firm’s 49 percent share of the EPA Attiki gas supply and EDA Attiki gas distribution ventures covering the wider Athens area, are still not over despite the energy ministry’s commitment to the country’s lenders for a settlement of the matter by June 6, today.

Price is not believed to be an issue in the delay. The two sides have agreed on a 150 million-euro price, according to sources, following evaluations carried out independently by DEPA and Shell.

Instead, the delay has been attributed to the great detail of attention shown by DEPA to guarantees that will ensure Shell’s full market withdrawal and also block any future market reentry attempt by the Dutch firm, including indirectly, as a member of an investment scheme.

Shell is not represented directly or through a subsidiary for its EPA Attiki joint venture with DEPA, but, instead, through an SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle). DEPA wants Shell, or one of its subsidiaries, to commit the Dutch company to a lawful execution and maintenance of the agreement to be signed.

In addition, DEPA is pushing for a term that would safeguard the Greek gas utility against any pending issues that may arise in the future, including tax matters and accidents as a result of faulty infrastructure development. Shell has yet to agree to such commitments.

An agreement between DEPA and Shell would clear the way for the Greek gas utility’s privatization, originally scheduled for 2018 but now not expected to be completed until some point in 2019.

 

DEPA sale to spill over into 2019, many steps still needed

Revisions presented to a parliamentary committee last week for a complete ownership split of DEPA, the public gas corporation, and DESFA, the natural gas grid operator, promise to settle a pending bailout-related issue concerning distribution network ownership but many steps still lie ahead before the DEPA privatization, another bailout demand, is completed.

Although the government has included this sale’s proceeds in the 2018 national budget, the privatization is not expected to be finalized until 2019. Pending issues include the need to split of the gas utility’s commercial and distribution network divisions into two companies.

The energy ministry and country’s lenders agreed on a DEPA privatization model during recent fourth-review bailout negotiations but its specifics still need to be determined. The precise DEPA stake to remain with the Greek State and the sale’s time frame both remain undetermined.

Government officials have already unofficially admitted that it will be extremely difficult to announce two DEPA tenders offering investors stakes in the company’s trading and distribution network divisions within 2018, let alone collect the sale’s budgeted amount within the current year.

Negotiations between DEPA and Italy’s Eni for the latter’s full acquisition of the EPA Thessaloniki-Thessaly gas supply company, commercially dubbed Zenith, have been completed. DEPA previously held a 51 percent stake in this venture and Eni the other 49 percent.

However, DEPA has yet to finalize an agreement with Shell concerning the utility’s acquisition of the Dutch firm’s 49 percent share of the EPA Attiki gas supply and EDA Attiki gas distribution companies covering the wider Athens area. DEPA currently holds 51 percent shares in these ventures.

DEPA’s agreements with Eni and Shell both need to be completed to clear the way for the privatization. Furthermore, both agreements will require approval from related supervisory bodies, including the European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition. It is estimated the required approvals cannot be completed sooner than autumn.

The ongoing bailout-required sale of a 50.5 percent stake of ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), which holds a 35 percent share of DEPA, is another crucial pending issue.

Also, related legislation will need to be ratified before DEPA’s tenders offering investors stakes in the prospective commercial and distribution network companies are announced.

Given all these pending steps, the DEPA tender for the commercial division could  be launched within 2018 but, realistically, the sale concerning the distribution network cannot be announced any sooner than early 2019.

 

 

 

 

DEPA, Shell talks for Dutch firm’s local market exit still not over

Long-running negotiations between DEPA, the public gas corporation, and Shell concerning the former’s acquisition of the Dutch firm’s 49 percent share of the EPA Attiki gas supply and EDA Attiki gas distribution ventures covering the wider Athens area, have yet to be finalized but could be successfully completed within the next few days, DEPA sources have informed.

DEPA holds a 51 percent stake in these ventures and is negotiating to buy out Shell for a reported sum of 150 million euros.

The two sides are believed to have agreed on most matters but are still working on fine details concerning Shell’s full market withdrawal. DEPA is pushing for an agreement that would rule out any possibility of Shell’s eventual reentry into this market.

Sources explained it would be pointless for DEPA to pay 150 million euros now only to see the Dutch firm reemerge at some point in the future as part of a rival team.

Tax and environmental issues, concerning the existing DEPA-Shell ventures, that could arise in the future are also being closely examined.

An agreement between the two sides is expected no later than June 6. DEPA’s bailout-required privatization plan, to offer investors a 65 percent stake, is expected to be shaped immediately following the utility’s agreement with Shell.

DEPA is expected to be split into two enterprises – one to handle the networks and the other commercial matters – to be sold separately, energy minister Giorgos Stathakis and the country’s lenders appear to have agreed. This model, still unclear, needs to be fine tuned.

The Greek State is expected to keep a majority stake in the firm controlling the networks and a minority stake for the commercial firm, according to Stathakis. He has not elaborated on specific stakes.

This plan was tabled by TAIPED, the state privatization fund, not the energy minister, who proposed a far more elaborate model entailing the establishment of a listed holding company comprised of three subsidiaries to respectively handle the networks, commercial matters and international projects, including gas pipeline projects such as the IGB and IGI Poseidon. Investors would have been offered a minority stake for the first and a majority stake for the second, while the third would have remained under the holding company’s control.

The country’s lenders expressed doubts over this proposal’s feasibility and opted for the two-firm solution.

 

 

DEPA, Eni to sign deal today, Shell selling its stake for €150m

Months-long negotiations between DEPA, the public gas corporation, and Italy’s Eni for the latter’s full acquisition of the EPA Thessaloniki-Thessaly gas supply company, commercially dubbed Zenith, are expected to be completed today with the signing of a finalized agreement.

Until now, DEPA has held a 51 percent stake in this venture and Eni the other 49 percent. No changes are expected to be made to the EDA Thessaloniki-Thessaly gas distribution company. DEPA and Eni will retain their respective 51 and 49 percent stakes in this venture.

Not unintentionally, the timing of the deal’s anticipated completion coincides with a meeting in Athens today between energy minister Giorgos Stathakis and the country’s lender representatives. Greek officials are keen to send a signal to the troika that pending bailout issues at the energy ministry are being settled.

DEPA also appears to have been reached an agreement with Shell to acquire the latter’s 49 percent share of the EPA Attiki gas supply and EDA Attiki gas distribution companies covering the wider Athens area. DEPA currently holds 51 percent shares in these ventures. The two sides held marathon talks yesterday. Pending issues appear to have been settled while, according to sources, the agreement is worth 150 million euros.

The government and lenders still need to agree on the resulting market structure following these rearrangements before a DEPA-Shell deal can be officially announced. DEPA would fully control EPA and EDA Attiki and hold a majority stake in EDA Thessaloniki-Thessaly.

The finalization of DEPA’s future roles in all the aforementioned ventures will enable officials to begin discussing and implementing the gas utility’s privatization model. This sale is planned to offer investors a 65 percent stake.

A meeting today to involve Stathakis, the energy minister, finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos and the lenders will indicate whether a Greek proposal for the DEPA privatization stands a chance of being accepted.

An alternative DEPA privatization plan prepared by the energy minister entails the establishment of a holding company to serve as an umbrella for three new subsidiaries respectively covering commercial, distribution and international projects divisions.

A number of local officials have questioned whether this plan can raise the privatization funds expected from DEPA as the proposal, restricting investors to a minority stake of DEPA’s networks, is seen as unattractive.

A second idea has also been tabled. It entails the establishment of two subsidiaries, one representing DEPA’s networks and the other the firm’s commercial division, without a holding company. Each subsidiary would be sold separately to represent a 65 percent privatization. This proposal recognizes that the gas networks and commerce are two different markets. Some investors may focus on the networks and others on the commercial side.

Apart from the privatization model that needs to be adopted for DEPA, ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), which holds a 35 percent stake of this gas utility, also needs to make its position clear.

ELPE officials have told energypress that retaining a minority role in DEPA is pointless for the enterprise, while suggesting ELPE would withdraw from its DEPA interests if the price is right.

ELPE is interested in the natural gas market but only as a majority shareholder with managerial control, the officials explained.