Greek Asset-Sales Plan Dealt Blow as Gazprom Declines Depa Bid
Greece failed to secure any bids for the nation’s gas monopoly, marking the latest setback to a state-asset sales program that underpins 240 billion euros ($317 billion) of foreign aid.
No bids were received for Depa SA, Deputy Energy Minister Assimakis Papageorgiou told reporters in Athens today. The government received one bid from a “major country” for grid operator Desfa SA, which was also up for sale, he said.
The sale of Depa and Opap SA (OPAP), the gambling company, were central to Greek government plans to raise 2.3 billion euros this year, a target that earlier was revised lower. Progress on selling state assets has been criticized by the International Monetary Fund, one of Greece’s creditors, as “extremely disappointing.”
Bidders were invited to express interest in either buying all of Depa and a 66 percent stake in Desfa or just acquiring Depa, according to an e-mailed statement from the Athens-based Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund. The fund confirmed later that Azerbaijan’s Socar had submitted the only bid for Desfa.
Russia’s OAO Gazprom (GAZP), the biggest natural-gas company, was the most prominent of five possible contenders for Depa and Greece had pinned hopes on a Gazprom bid to revive interest in the sales.
Gazprom decided against bidding for Depa because it didn’t get adequate guarantees on Depa’s continuing financial health, spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said in statement in Moscow. The guarantees related to state regulation and Gazprom saw the risk of Depa’s finances worsening by the time the deal closed, he said.
The failure to attract bids for Depa came as representatives of Greece’s international creditors began a review of the nation’s progress in Athens. The state asset sales plan is central to paying down a debt load that threatened to push Greece out of the euro last year.
The IMF warned in January that the government needed to match “results with rhetoric.” Asset sales have been intermittent since international creditors pushed the government to pledge 50 billion euros rather than 7 billion euros by selling assets that include everything from island properties to airplanes.
The government on May 1 accepted a revised offer from a group of companies called Emma Delta to buy a 33 percent stake in Opap. The consortium, controlled by Jiri Smejc and George Melissanidis, offered 652 million euros, with Greece to receive an additional 60 million euros in a dividend for 2012, after the fund rejected an earlier offer it deemed too low.
Gazprom, which supplies about a quarter of the European market with gas, was competing with a joint venture by Greek companies Mytilineos SA and Motor Oil Hellas SA for Depa, OJSC Negusneft which has bid for both Depa and Desfa, and Gekterna SA.
Locked out of bond markets since April 2010, Greece is the only nation to receive two bailout packages from the euro area and IMF as public opposition to pension and wage cuts derailed the pace of promised economic reforms.
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