Outcome of ELFE legal battle crucial for DEPA’s privatization

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Storengy’s Kavala UGS tender exit prompts formation changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RAE issues undermining DEPA Infrastructure privatization

Delays, instability and flawed intervention by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, on important operating issues concerning gas utility DEPA’s subsidiaries EDA Attiki, EDA Thess and DEDA – the three distributors covering the wider Athens area, Thessaloniki-Thessaly and rest of Greece, respectively – are undermining the privatization procedure for DEPA Infrastructure, a new DEPA entity placed for sale, DEPA Infrastructure has warned in a letter to the authority.

In the letter, also forwarded to privatization fund TAIPED and the energy ministry, DEPA Infrastructure complains of a RAE delay in endorsing EDA tariffs for 2019 to 2022, which has consequently placed the gas company’s development plan in turmoil.

Besides not having reached a decision on gas distribution pricing policy, the authority has changed the WACC level three times since last year, including recently, which has negatively impacted the yields of DEPA subsidiary investments, sources noted.

Also, RAE regards initiatives taken by the three gas distributors to attract more consumers to the natural gas market as a form of state aid, DEPA Infrastructure protests in the letter, referring to distribution network connection fee discounts offered by the distributors, as well as subsidy support for natural gas system installations.

Any moves to curb these initiatives promoting gas usage would derail the natural gas sector’s energy-mix penetration target for 2030, as specified in the National Energy and Climate Plan, DEPA Infrastructure contends.

These unfavorable conditions threaten to delay the DEPA Infrastructure privatization, company sources stressed.

The sale procedure’s video data room is still lacking vital information for prospective bidders, who could begin seeing the DEPA Infrastructure privatization as a high-risk investment, the sources noted, adding that WACC level reductions will ultimately reduce the market value of DEPA Infrastructure and the subsidiaries.

DEPA Commercial, DEPA Infrastructure binding-bid deadlines extended

The second-round, binding-bid deadlines for the privatizations of gas utility DEPA’s two new entities, DEPA Commercial and DEPA Infrastructure, have once again been reset for latter dates despite the government’s recent approval of privatization fund TAIPED’s revised Asset Development Plan.

According to sources, the new binding-bids deadline for DEPA Commercial, a privatization expected to draw major interest as a result of the company’s strong market standing and potential, has been reset for March, instead of December.

According to some sources, TAIPED wants to include improved DEPA Commercial results anticipated for the third quarter into the sale’s video data room, whose data will be assessed by prospective bidders once they sign confidentiality agreements.

TAIPED will, as a result, aim to achieve a higher selling price for DEPA Commercial, which has recaptured market share losses.

Other sources insist the rescheduled date is linked to an uncertainty felt by investors over DEPA’s ongoing legal dispute with ELFE (Hellenic Fertilizers and Chemicals).

A DEPA appeal of a court verdict that disapproved the utility’s pricing policy for ELFE is scheduled to take place in January, while a ruling will be delivered even later. Investors want clarity on this front before they can submit binding bids.

DEPA Infrastructure’s deadline for binding bids has now been rescheduled for February instead of January.

Pundits have attributed this development to a failure by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, to finalize a gas distribution network pricing policy by September, as had been planned. The authority has yet to offer a new date for the new network pricing policy, sources said.

Prospective bidders consider this pricing detail crucial as it determines the earnings level of DEPA Infrastructure.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEPA Commercial VDR expected to open for bidders by end of week

A virtual data room offering financial and technical information concerning the privatization of DEPA Commercial, an offshoot of gas utility DEPA, will be opened to prospective bidders by the end of this week, sources have informed.

A final meeting between DEPA Commercial’s administration and privatization fund TAIPED may be staged today or tomorrow before the VDR is opened up for investors.

The sale of DEPA Commercial, expected to be fiercely contested by the country’s major energy players, should produce a result by December, according to an updated TAIPED schedule for its Asset Development Plan. This plan has already been approved by KYSOIP, the Government Council for Economic Policy.

A VDR for DEPA’s other privatization, DEPA Infrastracture, was opened in late August. Despite its earlier launch, binding offers are expected sooner for DEPA Commercial, whose conclusion has been scheduled for January, 2021 by TAIPED.

Well-informed sources have attributed this differing pace of schedules to a more complex sale procedure demanded for DEPA Infrastructure, requiring intervention by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy. In addition, EU authorities will need to provide certification, needed for transfers of distribution networks and energy transmission systems.

For the time being, all of the country’s energy players are expected to gain access into the DEPA Commercial VDR as a first step before deciding on whether to place binding bids. Partnerships could be sought.

 

 

 

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.

DEPA Commerce 5-year business plan includes turn to RES sector

Gas company DEPA Commerce’s five-year business plan for 2020-2024, containing investments estimated at 200 million euros, aspires to broaden the company’s interests by also incorporating renewable energy projects totaling 200 MW, either through independent development or acquisitions of mature plans.

Privatization fund TAIPED and the energy ministry are expected to approve the DEPA Commerce business plan within July.

DEPA Commerce was formed by gas utility DEPA as a new entity for its privatization procedure.

Besides RES projects, the DEPA Commerce business plan also includes hydrogen and biomethane projects, as well as electromobility initiatives.

The company’s expansion of business activities is expected to lead to greatly increased EBITDA and profit figures.

Once finalized and approved, the DEPA Commerce five-year business plan will be included in the due diligence package for prospective bidders.

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 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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

RAE given 5 months to set Kavala underground gas storage charges

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has been given five months to determine the pricing policy, regulated earnings and WACC for a planned underground gas storage facility at a depleted offshore gas field in the south Kavala region, according to an imminent joint ministerial decision, energypress understands.

The launch date of the project’s tender will depend on funding for project studies through the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) program. This essentially means that the privatization fund TAIPED will need to officially launch the project within the first half of this year to avoid missing out on CEF funds.

The project’s investment cost is estimated at between 300 and 400 million euros.

France’s Engie as well as Energean Oil & Gas and GEK-Terna have formed a three-member consortium named Storengy in anticipation of the tender. DESFA, the gas grid operator, is also expected to participate in the tender.

The project, promising gas storage capacity of 360 million cubic meters, is considered vital for Greece as it will be able to maintain strategic reserves for considerable time periods.

Its development will help boost the performance level and strategic role of the Revythoussa LNG terminal just off Athens, and the prospective Alexandroupoli FSRU in the country’s northeast, as these will be able to supply the wider region greater gas quantities via the IGB and TAP gas pipelines.

The south Kavala project has been classified as a PCI project, offering EU funding opportunities, seen as crucial for the investment’s sustainability, according to some analysts.

South Kavala gas storage facility facing tough PCI schedule

Despite being regarded as pivotal infrastructure for the country’s energy sector, a prospective underground gas storage facility at a depleted offshore gas field south of Kavala has remained stagnant in recent months, prompting fears that the required momentum needed for utilizing related wider developments could be lost.

The project’s inclusion on the EU’s PCI list offers financing opportunities, which, according to certain analysts, are crucial for the investment’s sustainability. However, this privilege comes with a strict schedule that must be maintained.

If the underground gas storage project is to qualify for funding offered by the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) program, then authorities must submit a related application within 2020.

This essentially means a project promoter must be selected to prepare a business plan and apply for financing, all within the second half of this year.

Also, a tender for the storage facility’s privatization will need to be staged by privatization fund TAIPED by the end of the first half, experienced officials have pointed out.

A joint ministerial decision establishing a legal framework for the facility’s operation will need to precede the sale procedure. In addition, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, must, prior to the privatization, establish general guidelines determining pricing policy, regulated earnings, WACC, and a minimum capacity vacancy level that investors will need to maintain for national security reasons.

The chances of CEF financing are now starting to tighten up as the month of January is just about gone and there is no sign of a joint ministerial decision. When delivered, it should serve as a catalyst for ensuing initiatives.

 

 

 

 

 

DEPA Trade sale launch near, Middle East tension a concern

The launch of a privatization procedure offering 100 percent of DEPA Trade, a new entity established by gas utility DEPA for the sale, is near, as long as the heightened tension in the Middle East does not lead to extreme events and turbulent market conditions.

Officials at privatization fund TAIPED and the energy ministry are aiming for a start before the end of January, while, according to some sources, the sale’s launch may take place at the end of next week.

The heightened tension in the Middle East is a concern for the organizers of this privatization as extreme developments could unsettle oil and gas markets to an extent that would render the current period unsuitable for the DEPA Trade sale. If so, officials may need to delay the sale’s launch.

TAIPED and Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE), holding a 35 percent stake in DEPA, are close to reaching an agreement on the sale process of this stake should ELPE not emerge as the sale’s winning bidder. The petroleum group intends to seek a full acquisition in the DEPA sale. The details of a clause requiring ELPE to sell its stake, if the group fails to submit the winning bid, are now being worked on.

The agreement between TAIPED and ELPE will need to be endorsed by the boards of both entities.

 

 

DEPA, ELPE, south Kavala gas storage privatizations in 2020

The privatizations of gas utility DEPA – through two separate tenders offering the utility’s trade and infrastructure divisions that have resulted from a split designed for the sale – as well as the Greek State’s 35.48 percent stake in Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE), stand as the major sales planned by privatization fund TAIPED in 2020.

TAIPED also plans to push ahead with a tender for the conversion of a depleted natural gas field in the offshore South Kavala region into an underground gas storage facility in the New Year.

The DEPA and ELPE privatizations are expected to raise one billion euros from a target of 2.4 billion euros set for 2020. If achieved, this amount will represent a new privatization revenue record for TAIPED.

The DEPA Infrastructure tender is already in progress. Participants are due to express non-binding interest by February 14. The DEPA Trade tender is expected to be launched within January. TAIPED is confident both these sales can be completed in 2020.

A planned privatization to offer a 30 percent stake in Athens International Airport ranks as TAIPED’s other major sale plan for 2020. The Greek State currently holds a 55 percent stake in Athens International Airport S.A. or AIA, the airport authority that owns and manages Athens International Airport.

DEPA Infrastructure sale first-round deadline set for Feb.14

Interested buyers of DEPA Infrastructure, a new entity emerging from a split at gas utility DEPA, have until February 14 to express non-binding first-round interest in its sale, offering the entire stake, the privatization fund TAIPED has announced.

TAIPED is selling the Greek State’s 65 percent stake and Hellenic Petroleum has contributed its full 35 percent stake.

Strategic investors as well as investment funds seeking strong yields have already displayed strong interest in the sale, TAIPED sources have informed media.

Procedures concerning the privatization of DEPA’s other new entity, DEPA Trade, are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2020. It remains unclear whether ELPE will contribute its 35 percent DEPA stake to this sale. ELPE has noted it will seek to take full control of this new company by acquiring the other 65 percent.

Greek groups, all involved in the energy sector, and foreign groups, some of which have already entered the country’s energy market, are interested in DEPA Trade, TAIPED sources added.

Ministry amendment to unblock Kavala storage legal complexity

The energy ministry has prepared a legislative amendment needed to overcome a legal complexity that has emerged concerning the development of an underground gas storage facility in the offshore South Kavala region through the utilization of a depleted natural gas field.

The amendment, which could be submitted to parliament today, will not lead to any fundamental changes concerning the project but purely focuses on resolving the legal obstacles obstructing its development, sources informed.

Once ratified, this amendment will pave the way for the publication of a related joint ministerial decision in the government gazette ahead of the asset’s eventual privatization.

Meanwhile, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, needs to prepare general guidelines determining the project’s pricing policy, regulated earnings, WACC level, as well as a minimum capacity level that will need to be kept vacant by the project’s investor for national energy security reasons.

RAE will have three months to prepare the guidelines once the joint ministerial decision has been published in the government gazette.

TAIPED, the privatization fund, has received an amount worth 1.6 million euros from the European Commission’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) to finance engineering studies required for the underground gas storage facility ahead of the privatization tender. This financial development was included in a updated Asset Development Plan (ADP) presented by TAIPED a fortnight ago. The investment’s cost is estimated between 300 and 400 million euros.

France’s Engie, Energean Oil & Gas and GEK-Terna have formed a three-member consortium named Storengy in anticipation of the tender. DESFA, the gas grid operator, is also expected to participate in the tender.

DEPA Infrastructure sale to be announced mid-December

Privatization fund TAIPED is preparing swift privatization action at gas utility DEPA to follow the government’s ratification of a restructuring plan at the company that will place for sale two new corporate entities, DEPA Trade and DEPA Infrastructure, emerging through this process.

A tender offering investors the Greek State’s 65 percent of DEPA Infrastructure – resulting from the Greek State’s equivalent stake in DEPA – will be announced no later than December 15, according to energypress sources.

Hellenic Petroleum ELPE’s 35 percent stake – resulting from the Greek State’s equivalent stake in DEPA – is expected to be included in the DEPA Infrastructure sale, sources noted. The petroleum group has indicated it is not interested in maintaining interests in DEPA Infrastructure. If this is so, then the potential buyer or buyers of DEPA Infrastructure will become full owner.

DEPA Infrastructure is the full owner of Attiki gas distributor, covering the wider Athens area, and DEDA, covering the rest of Greece. DEPA Infrastructure also holds a 51 percent stake in distributor EDA Thess (Thessaloniki and Thessaly). Italy’s ENI is the minority partner in this venture.

DEPA Infrastructure, through all its interests, has lined up a five-year investment program worth 250 million euros. Revenues at DEPA Infrastructure are regulated and worth a total of approximately 130 million euros.

Italy’s Italgas and Germany’s E.ON are believed to be among the potential bidders for DEPA Infrastructure. Belgium’s Fluxys and Spain’s Enagas, both part of a three-member consortium controlling Greek gas grid operator DESFA, may also participate in the DEPA Infrastructure sale.

The announcement of a sale procedure for DEPA Trade will follow and is expected by the end of January.

ELPE is not expected to offer its 35 percent stake to this sale, meaning bidders will most probably be bidding for the Greek State’s 65 percent.

The Mytilineos group, Motor Oil and a partnership comprised of Copelouzos and KKCG, the Czech company holding a stake in Greek lottery company OPAP, are seen as likely participants in the privatization fund’s ELPE Trade sale. International players ENI and Edison have also been mentioned by pundits.

 

ELPE privatization headed for delay, lenders have approved

A privatization plan for part of the Greek State’s 35.48 percent stake in Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) will be delayed for next year as current market conditions are not favorable, while the procedure could even be reassessed from scratch, sources have informed.

This delay, sources said, has already been approved by the country’s lenders, who have admitted the ELPE privatization has never represented a restructuring plan for the Greek economy, but, instead, is a cash-collecting initiative incorporated into the wider effort to reduce public debt.

A government plan to sell the Greek State’s ELPE stake through the Athens bourse was recently reported as finalized and ready for implementation next month.

The Latsis group’s Paneuropean Oil, ELPE’s main shareholder with a 45.5 percent stake, has been allowed a more influential administrative role at ELPE since the summer’s Greek election brought in a new government.

Energy minister Costis Hatzidakis, speaking in Greek Parliament, has noted there is no intention to sell the Greek State’s entire ELPE stake. It remains unclear what the level of the Greek State’s percentage in ELPE could be following the privatization.

TAIPED, the privatization fund, holds the Greek State’s stake in ELPE. A sale of this stake through the bourse would require a legislative revision.

Concurrent DEPA infrastructure, trade unit sales being planned

Privatization fund TAIPED plans to stage concurrent tenders offering stakes of up to 65 percent in DEPA Trade and DEPA Infrastructure once legislation has been ratified to enable gas utility DEPA’s split into these two new corporate entities.

The Greek State holds a 65 percent stake in DEPA, while Hellenic Petroleum ELPE holds the other 35 percent.

The Greek State’s entire stake in DEPA – both infrastructure and trade – could be offered to investors, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis noted yesterday.

A DEPA draft bill enabling the sale of the Greek State’s entire share will be submitted to Greek Parliament within October, along with power utility PPC revisions and a wider framework for more extensive energy market liberalization, the minister added.

The level of the Greek State’s DEPA stake to be privatized will be determined once ELPE decides on the future of its 35 percent share in the gas utility.

It is believed ELPE could sell its stake in DEPA Infrastructure and seek control of the gas utility’s trading interests.

Ministry closing in on Kavala underground gas storage model

The energy ministry is close to deciding on a business model for a prospective underground gas storage facility in the offshore South Kavala region, the objective being to ensure the investment’s sustainability without overburdening consumers.

Numerous alternatives have been examined so far but a model applied in France and Italy appears to be the most favored, energypress sources informed.

The content of an upcoming joint ministerial decision is now at a mature stage following efforts that have now lasted nearly two years, energy ministry officials noted.

The ministerial decision will determine the licensing, development and exploitation terms for the project, 30km south of Kavala, where a depleted natural gas field is planned to be converted into an underground gas storage facility.

Swift progress is needed as Greece will need to request EU financing for the project, on the PCI list, in 2020. If the request is delayed until 2021 then the available funds could be severely diminished and absorbed by other European PCI-status projects.

The underground gas storage facility is vital for Greece’s electricity grid given the anticipated increase of gas consumption to be prompted by the planned development of combined cycle power plants. Five market players, Mytilineos, Elpedison, GEK TERNA, Elval Halkor and Karatzis, have expressed interest to develop such units.

Privatization fund TAIPED will take over proceedings for a tender once the project’s business model has been decided. The investment is expected to reach between 300 and 400 million euros. Its storage capacity is estimated at between 360 and 720 cubic meters.

Greece is the only EU member without an underground gas storage facility. All other member states maintain facilities covering at least 20 percent of their annual gas consumption needs. Many more similar facilities are currently being planned around Europe.