SOCAR ready to cede 16% of DESFA
The President of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan, Rovnag Abdullayev, expressed readiness to discuss the possible sale of a 16% share in Greece's DESFA gas transmission system operator. He said that no agreement has been reached, "but we are ready to sell a 16% share to European companies and hold talks with them," Trend cited Abdullayev as saying.
Earlier, the head of SOCAR said that the Azerbaijani side is waiting for the early parliamentary elections to be held in Greece. "After the elections, we will discuss this issue of purchasing a share in DESFA with the country’s new authorities. Currently, we have temporarily frozen the talks till the clarification of the issue related to the new government in Greece," he explained.
In December 2013 SOCAR won a tender on the sale of a 66% share in DESFA. Currently, the deal is being considered by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition.
A senior analyst of 'Uralsib Capital', Alexei Kokin, told Vestnik Kavkaza that it's doubtful that Russian companies will be among the contenders for the stake. "I doubt that the EU will approve such a deal. Secondly, I think it's not very interesting. It's a pretty small package, which, in particular, gives no authority and no opportunities to influence the policy of the company somehow," he said.
The expert suggested that, nevertheless, some Russian players could consider the deal interesting. "Basically, Gazprom is traditionally interested in everything connected with the Greek gas sector. Gazprom oil is interested in the oil business. Other companies such as Lukoil have declined almost all European projects. Rosneft also has other priorities," Alexei Kokin noted.
The head of the Center for Oil Research, Ilham Shaban, in his turn, noted that the decision to sell part of the shares was made under the influence of "the insistence of the European Commission".
"This pressure has been going on for probably half a year. First, the EC set a condition to the Greek government on the privatization of Greek state-owned companies. Then they said that the Greek state-owned company should not move under the control of a foreign state-owned company. As a result, Brussels and SOCAR reached a compromise in which the Azerbaijani company has less than 50% out of 60% of the shares. The question of who would get these shares is open. The new leftist government stated that a controlling stake in DESFA must belong to the state. And this is real, if 16% of the shares will be bought by them," the expert stressed.