TAIPED to launch new DESFA tender, details not released

The energy ministry is keeping under wraps the details of its plan concerning the relaunch of an international tender to offer a stake of DESFA, the natural gas grid operator, including whether the 66 percent stake offered though the previous sale attempt will be reduced.

TAIPED, the state privatization fund, is waiting for final decisions to be made at the energy ministry before it proceeds with the tender’s declaration. Meanwhile, a letter of guarantee worth 40 million euros that had been provided by the Azerbaijani energy firm Socar, the winning bidder of the first and ultimately unsuccessful DESFA tender, has yet to be returned.

At this stage, it appears certain that a new tender will be launched immediately following the festive season.

Legal experts have informed that no obtacles should prevent the first tender from being nullified as it was completed in 2013, when Socar was declared the winning bidder. A final agreement, however, was never reached and the process recently collapsed after Socar decided not to further extend its letter of guarantee.

After winning the first tender, Socar was eventually joined by Italy’s Snam as a partner in the deal in response to European Commission intervention ordering the Azerbaijani firm to surrender at least 17 percent of the 66 percent stake of DESFA it had agreed to acquire. The sale effort was further complicated by Greek energy ministry measures imposed last summer that severely restricted the operator’s revenue potential.

According to sources, Socar and TAIPED have already agreed to terminate the first tender signed three years ago without any penalties. As the next step, the Greek privatization fund will need to return the letter of guarantee to Socar after having cleared the failed sale attempt of any prospective legal complications.

The equity stake of DESFA to be offered by ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), which holds a 35 percent stake of the gas grid operator, is another isssue that needs to be resolved before the follow-up sale attempt proceeds.

Given the rapid developments in Greece’s energy market, a number of ELPE officials believe that the petroleum company needs to maintain its interests in the country’s gas infrastructure, including the LNG terminal on the islet Revythoussa, just off Athens. This perception could restrict the DESFA stake ELPE would be willing to offer for the tender’s relaunch. Certain ELPE officials admit they would be more prepared to sell ELPE’s stake in DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, rather than DESFA.

Greek government officials are now expected to inform parties interested in the upcoming new DESFA tender of the new sale procedure. These include Belgium’s Fluxys and Romania’s Transgas.

If all goes according to plan, the new DESFA tender is not expected to be completed before September, 2017.