Terna Rete Italia, France’s RTE interested in IPTO’s 24%

Envisioning an expansion into the Balkans with Greece as their base, at least two major European electricity network operators, Terna Rete Italia and France’s RTE, an EDF subsidiary firm, appear to be interested in acquiring a 24 percent share of Greek power grid operator IPTO, to be offered to strategic investors as a bailout-required measure.

An international tender offering this 24 percent stake of IPTO is expected to be announced within the next few days.

According to sources, both Terna Rete Italia and RTE are closely following the developments at IPTO, currently a wholly owned subsidiary of main power utility PPC, which, in turn, is controlled by the Greek State with a 51.12 percent stake, including a 17 percent share already transfered to a Greek privatization fund.

The tender’s terms and conditions have been finalized by Greece’s energy ministry and PPC. Not wasting any time amid a tight schedule, the two have been working on the matter since a marred general shareholders meeting on June 30, which had been interrupted by PPC’s main union group Genop but was restaged yesterday, a key item on the agenda being the endorsement of the IPTO sale. Part of the procedure was endorsed yesterday.

RTE employs 8,400 persons and ranks as Europe’s biggest power grid operator. The company controls a network with a total length of 105,331 kilometers, while 46.2 percent of its high-voltage lines offer long-distance transportation to 48 cross-border connections with neighboring countries.

In 2014, RTE posted a total turnover figure of 4.5 billion euros while its investments exceeded 1.3 billion euros. Its customers include eleven railway companies, 258 industrial enterprises and 54 power stations. In 2014, RTE transferred 494 billion KWh and marketed 112 billion KWh as cross-border transactions.

Terna Rete Italia, Italy’s power grid operator, has been interested in expanding into the Balkans through Greece for years. It had taken part in a preceding IPTO tender staged in 2014 by the then-ruling conservative New Democracy-led government, which had offered a 66 percent stake of IPTO. The Italian opertor withdrew when it became apparent the procedure was headed towards a dead end, but, even so, remains interested in branching out into the Balkans. Terna Rete Italia operates 72,000 kilometers of high-voltage lines in Italy.

PPC shareholders, or, essentially, the Greek State, yesterday approved the sale of 49 percent of IPTO to private-sector investors. Of this, a 24 percent share will be be offered to strategic investors and 25 percent to investors through the bourse. Based on the plan, a 51 percent share of IPTO will be taken over by the Greek State.

The tender’s procedures will need to move fast to avoid IPTO’s full privatization later in the year, as specified in the bailout agreement.

Based on IPTO’s new administrative terms, its chief executive will be appointed by the Greek government, while its managing director will be jointly appointed with participation from the strategic investor.