CASPIAN OIL & GAS - SOCAR seeks buyer for its stake in DESFA

SOCAR seeks buyer for its stake in DESFA


Azerbaijan's energy giant SOCAR has still failed to find a buyer for its 17 assets in DESFA to finalize the deal with the Greek company.

SOCAR still continues search for an investor to divest a part of its 66 percent stake in Greek natural gas grid operator DESFA, which is a key condition to conclude the acquisition of the DESFA’s assets, Reuters reported on May 11 by referring to the Greek Energy Minister Panos Skourletis.

SOCAR has not found a buyer for its 17 assets in DESFA in order to draw down its share to 49 percent, said Skourletis.

Recently, SOCAR’s president said that the company plans to hold a meeting with Greek Energy Minister and discuss the issue about the acquisition of the assets in DESFA on the sidelines of the groundbreaking ceremony for the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).

Earlier, Skourletis said that SOCAR needs to sell 17 percent to a European company in order to complete the acquisition of 66 percent stake in DESFA.

He further added that SOCAR has the right to vote for a new shareholder.

Previously, the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) received a formal offer from the Italian company Snam alliance Fluxys-Enagas about the purchase of 17 percent stake in DESFA, later Fluxys refused from this plan.

Dutch Gasunie and Italian Snam also were among those interested in purchase of DESFA’s 17 percent shares.

SOCAR won a tender in December 2013 on the sale of 66-percent share in DESFA for 400 million euros ($448 million).

Nevertheless, in November 2014, the European Commission started an inquiry into the compliance of the deal on the acquisition of this stake with the EU’s M&A regulations.

The privatization of DESFA is delayed due to the fact that the EC opposes to the transfer of a majority stake in gas operator to SOCAR. The European Commission does not want the control package of such a big Transmission System transferred to the hands of non-EU country, but remain under the Greek control.

Baku has earlier claimed that from Azerbaijan's perspective, there was no conflict of interest in acquiring a majority stake in DESFA as the gas owner to be pumped through the SGC was not Azerbaijan, but the Shah-Deniz Consortium.

SOCAR expects the issue to be resolved by the end of the current year.

Azerbaijan will start supply of 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year to Europe via TAP Pipeline in the first half of 2020.

In his remarks, Skourletis emphasized that TAP projects fit well with another gas pipeline scheme in the South Eastern European region- Interconnnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB), and a planned LNG project in Greek Alexandroupolis city.