DESFA 10-year plan delayed by Fyrom pipeline decision

A ten-year development plan submitted by DESFA, the natural gas grid operator, to RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, for approval last autumn remains pending as a result of a number of issues, the main reason being the authority’s indecision on a gas pipeline plan to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom).

RAE has yet to decide on the firm to be commissioned to develop the natural gas pipeline, to run from outer Thessaloniki to the country’s northern border shared with Fyrom (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) as the authority is also considering a rival offer for the project’s development by Windows International, a company controlled by Russian entrepreneur Leonid Lebedev.

The Russian firm has forwarded a letter to RAE highlighting that its offer was the first to be made, in March 2017, and meets all legal prerequisites. It also reminded that an MoU has been signed by the Greek and Fyrom governments for the gas pipeline’s development.

Windows International has provided additional details requested by the Greek authority and also made shareholder line-up revisions to meet an EU requirement forbidding the firm from having interests in any other natural gas producers and suppliers.

A second issue delaying RAE’s approval of DESFA’s ten-year plan has to do with a request by the authority for a binding schedule from the operator for all its projects, the intention being to ensure their timely completion.

A third factor concerns questions raised by the authority in an effort to clarify various issues and forecasts included in the operator’s proposals.

Despite the issues, RAE will need to endorse DESFA’s ten-year plan within the next three to four weeks, meaning some of the aforementioned issues may temporarily remain unresolved.

In this case, projects included in a preceding ten-year plan will be endorsed while new additions, such as the pipeline to Fyrom, will be included in an ensuing next ten-year plan which DESFA’s new ownership will need to submit by this summer, energypress sources informed.

A consortium led by Italy’s Snam and including Spain’s Enagás Internacional and Belgium’s Fluxys was yesterday nominated as the preferred investor for the acquisition of a 66 percent stake of DESFA, TAIPED, the state privatization fund announced.

Authorities are examining the prospect of introducing a national ten-year development plan for the gas sector. If such an approach had already been adopted, the DESFA and Windows International issue over the Thessaloniki-Fyrom pipeline would have been avoided.

Russian tycoon behind license bid for Greece-Fyrom gas link

A recent license application submitted to Greek authorities by Windows International, discreetly placed behind various interests, for a propective interconnection project planned to link the Greek and Fyrom (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) natural gas networks, a key part of the government’s intention to establish Greece as an energy hub, has raised eyebrows and questions.

Windows International does not have a past in Greece’s energy sector. Interestingly, following research, it was determined that Alexander Lebedev, a Russian businessman referred to as one of the Russian oligarchs, is behind the initiative.

Windows International submitted a request to RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, late in March for a 50-year license concerning the Greek-Fyrom gas network interconnection, planned to offer an annual capacity of 1.5 bcm and cover roughly 50 kilometers within Greek territory.

DESFA, Greece’s natural gas grid operator, recently signed an MOU with MER, its Fyrom counterpart, for the construction of a 160-km gas pipeline linking northern Greece with Stip in Fyrom. This project would provide Fyrom with direct access to Greece’s existing LNG terminal on the islet Revythoussa, just of Athens, and could also be linked with other projects, including the TAP pipeline.

The interest expressed by Windows International is believed to be linked to this plan. According to sources, the Greek Prime Minister’s office had been informed of Western International’s interest before the company submitted its license bid to RAE.

The application was submitted by Windows International Hellas SA, a subsidiary of Windows International, based in Luxembourg, RAE has informed.

The company’s Greek subsidiary is an unknown entity, while, surprisingly, obtaining information on its parent company proved difficult. The parent company does not maintain a company website. Besides its Luxembourg address, little other information is on record.

However, deeper exploration showed that Christian Tailleur, a member of the Ordre des Experts-Comtables (OEC), a professional organization of chartered accountants who possesses an extensive banking and investment past, and Toni Baev, the executive director at Balkan Utilities, active in Balkan energy-sector ventures, are both listed as Windows International representatives on the EU Transparency Register.

Furthermore, Tailleur is the head representative in Luxembourg for Cyprus’s Totalserve, active in specialized accounting, finance and other related services. Totalserve and Windows International share the same Luxembourg address. Totalserve also maintains an office in Athens.

Returning to Lebedev, the Russian tycoon, his corporate base is in London, where he publishes The London Evening Standard and The Independent newspapers. In 1995, Lebedev took over Russia’s then-troubled National Reserve Bank (NRB), which, under his leadership, was not only saved but grew.

Through NRB, Lebedev maintains a big energy-sector portfolio that includes a major stake in Russian electricity company RAO and Gazprom interests.