Plan to breakup power utility (PPC) via partial sell-off of units reportedly on track

Monday, 03 April 2017 14:10
UPD:14:22
REUTERS/YIORGOS KARAHALIS
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By G. Kanoupakis
jkan@naftemporiki.gr

A plan to sell-off certain Public Power Corp. (PPC) production plants, especially lignite-fired units in northern Greece, is reportedly continuing unabated, despite protestations by top government ministers and ruling party cadres bemoaning demands by creditors for the utility's partial privatization.

Relevant Economy and Development Minister Giorgos Stathakis last week cited the convening of an unofficial three-party assembly bringing together representatives of the government, creditors and executives of the state-run listed power utility after the second review is finally concluded. In fact, Stathakis made the statement from Kozani, a city and same-name prefecture of northern Greece that is the hub of PPC's power generation operations and lignite mining.

In an immediate reaction, PPC-affiliated unionists promised to block the privatization "on the streets".

Creditors have long demanded a curtailment of PPC's dominant position in Greece's electricity market. The utility previously enjoyed a near monopoly in the electricity sector, from exploiting lignite fields, to power generation, operation of the transmission grid to supplier of electricity to the retail, business and industrial markets.

On its part, Greece's privatization fund (HRADF) appears ready to issue an invitation of interest for prospective consultants, with the latter ostensibly tasked with tabling best-practice proposals for a PPC share capital stake (17 percent) held by the fund. Such a prospect looms as a prelude for the partial privatization of the utility's power generating capacity.

The prospect of selling-off PPC units has generated shrill reactions by unionists and the more hard left quarters of ruling SYRIZA party, which rode to power in January 2015 on a wave of anti-bailout and anti-austerity rhetoric, replete with an absolute rejection of any privatization of state-run and owned enterprises and assets.

The most vocal opponent from within the government ranks to the PPC breakup is current Interior Minister Panos Skourletis, who previously held the energy portfolio. The latter has blamed local and foreign private interests, as well as the main opposition, for pressuring the government into liberalizing the energy sector, in return for the conclusion of the second review of the Greek bailout program.

In a later development, the union representing the biggest portion of PPC's workforce, GENOP-DEI, said it would seek recourse to the European Court of Human Rights in order to block the looming privatization. The union's leadership also said industrial actions are not planned, but cannot be ruled out.

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