Greek agency hits back at Gazprom

6/10/2013

Greek agency hits back at Gazprom

ATHENS -- Greece's privatization agency on Monday hit back at Russia's state gas giant Gazprom after the company cited financial risks for its decision not to bid for Greek natural gas company Depa.

Depa is seen as one of the crown jewels in Greece's privatization program. Earlier Monday government officials said the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, the country's privatization agency, received no bids for Depa--and only a single bid for its sister company, gas grid operator Desfa--after Gazprom, which was widely seen as the front runner, withdrew from the tender. Other prospective bidders who had previously signalled their interest, including one Greek consortium and a second Russian company, also failed to submit offers.

Greek officials blamed the failure of an offer for Depa, which holds a state monopoly on the Greek gas market, on European competition authorities, who raised last-minute concerns over Gazprom's dominant market position inside the European Union. According to the officials, the Russian company was warned not to proceed with an offer late last week.

Officials from the European Union's competition commission weren't immediately available for comment.

Gazprom said it didn't bid for Depa because of "significant risks," including that the company's financial position could deteriorate before the deal closed.

However, the Greek privatization agency disputed this.

"Under no circumstances can the absence from the tender be justified, especially when there has been such great interest expressed after months-long thorough procedures," the agency said in a statement, adding that it had given guarantees that Depa's future financial position wouldn't worsen and agreed to cover up to 180 million euros ($237.8 million) of potential debts owed to Depa until the end of 2015. "They should, therefore, seek the reasons for the non-participation of Gazprom elsewhere and not on the Greek side," it said.

Dow Jones Newswires

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