As cash-strapped Greece is selling many of its state assets, three Russian companies including Gazprom are bidding to acquire the Greek gas companies DEPA and DESFA, out of a total of 17 bidders from 12 countries.
If Gazprom is prevented from acquiring Greece's gas assets, two other Russian companies will also be in the race to help it get the deal, the Russian daily Vedomosti writes today (3 April).
The Gazprom 'helpers", as Vedomosti calls them, are Sintez, a small company reportedly valued at $150 million (€112 million) owned by Leonid Lebedev, and an investment fund called Energiya, headed by Igor Yusufov, a former minister of energy and current member of the Gazprom Board of Directors.
Among the other bidders are the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic (SOCAR), the Czech state energy company CEZ group, Edison and Eni of Italy, Spain's Enagas and Gas Natural, the Chinese gas-distribution company ENN, Israel's energy holding Israel Corp., Mitsui of Japan, Algeria's Sonatrach, Vopak of the Netherlands, Greece's GEK Terna, and the Mytilineos and Motor Oil (M2M) consortium.
Greece expects to obtain no less than €2 billon euro from the auction. DEPA, the public gas supply corporation of Greece, has been estimated at €1 billion in value and DEFSA, a fully owned subsidiary of DEPA, is estimated at €500 million.
However, due to the strategic importance of Greece as a route of the Southern gas corridor, expected to bring gas to Europe from sources other than Russia, the companies could be sold at a higher price.
DEPA, as part of the consortium of the Turkey-Greece-Italy Interconnector (ITGI), was the unsuccessful bidder for the gas from the Shah Deniz II gas field in Azerbaijan, as SOCAR selected the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). Both projects run trough Greek territory (see map).
Vedomosti quotes Sintez CEO Andrey Korolev saying the company would bid mainly with borrowed funds. He added that his company's bid had better chances than Gazprom and Socar, under the EU's Third energy package, which requires ownership unbundling of the supply and the pipeline network.
However, Korolev didn't make it a secret that if successful, his company would "take Gazprom as a partner".
Gazprom declined to comment. Mikhail Korchemkin, Director of East European Gas Analysis expressed doubts that either Sintez or Energiya would help Gazprom obtain the deal, as these companies are too obviously in favour of Gazprom, which sells its gas at a price that is "far from being the more competitive on the market".
It remains unclear when the tender results will be announced.