Europe’s top energy official said today (19 January) that Greek authorities should privatise a majority stake in Greek gas grid operator DESFA, after a deal collapsed last year.
Under its privatisation programme, an important part of its international bailout, Greece and its biggest oil refiner, Hellenic Petroleum, had agreed to sell the DESFA stake to Azerbaijan’s SOCAR for €400 million.
The deal collapsed in November after Athens passed legislation raising DESFA’s gas tariffs by a lower amount than SOCAR had expected and SOCAR asked for a lower price.
Vitaly Baylarbayov, deputy vice-president of SOCAR, recently told euractiv.com that while the negotiations dragged on since Azerbaijan won the tender in December 2013, the price of DESFA reduced and that’s why the sides needed to find a compromise.
“The Commission continues to maintain the view that this 66% of DESFA must be privatised in the best possible conditions,” European Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete told a news conference in Athens.
He said the bidders should be fully unbundled transmission system operators. Greek Energy Minister George Stathakis said the precise model would be finalised “in the coming days” after talks with the country’s official creditors.
Greek media reported earlier this month that the energy ministry had proposed to its lenders a new plan under which the country would maintain a 51% stake in DESFA and divest just 14% to investors.
When asked about the report, a senior ministry official said “everything is being examined”.
The DESFA negotiations took a long time because the European Commission launched an investigation into whether the acquisition of DESFA by SOCAR breaks EU competition rules.
SOCAR is one of the companies in the consortium of the TAP pipeline, which plans to transport Azeri gas across Greece to Italy and another branch to Bulgaria.