TAIPED to rule on DESFA sale details, including state’s rights

The Greek State’s rights in DESFA, the natural gas grid operator, once the operator’s ongoing 66 percent privatization has been completed; the power to appoint board members; veto rights; as well as the validity of the current shareholders agreement represent some of the crucial issues TAIPED, the state privatization fund, needs to resolve.

The DESFA sale’s two remaining bidding teams – a Snam-led consortium including Spain’s Enagas, Belgium’s Fluxys and Dutch operator Gasunie, as well as the other contender, Spain’s Regasificadora del Noroeste, which has teamed up with Romania’s Transgaz – are demanding clarification on these issues. They are expected to be tackled at a TAIPED board meeting tomorrow. DESFA’s capital issues will be a key agenda item.

According to well-informed sources, many changes will be made to an initial draft of the shareholders agreement, tilted in favor of the Greek State, which prompted a reaction from the prospective investors. A more balanced solution satisfying both sides will be sought.

At present, it remains unclear whether the Greek State, to maintain a 34 percent stake, or the potential buyer of DESFA’s 66 percent, will have the right to appoint the operator’s chief executive. Under the current plan, five of the operator’s 11 board members will represent the Greek State.

Veto rights also need to be cleared up. An early plan, discussed during consultation, which would enable the Greek State to veto the strategic investor’s business plan if deemed unacceptable, will most likely be scrapped. The tender’s participants had reacted against such a right.

As for the operator’s current shareholders agreement, the energy ministry appears to have accepted a term that would maintain its validity for as long as the Greek State holds at least a five percent stake in DESFA. The inclusion of this detail in the sale process has raised suspicions that an option entailing a future sale of a further stake, which would reduce the Greek State’s DESFA stake to less than 34 percent, is being maintained.

TAIPED is believed to have included a term that will not allow the investor to resell any part of the 66 percent stake to be acquired in DESFA to a third party for ar least 24 months.