Ministers meet with SOCAR, Snam executives in efforts to unblock DESFA deal

Greek ministers and representatives of Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR met in Athens on Tuesday in an effort to unblock the stalling deal to sell a stake in the country’s national gas transmission system operator DESFA, an energy ministry source said.

SOCAR was declared the highest bidder in a 2013 tender for the acquisition of a 66 percent stake in DESFA for 400 million euros, but the European Union blocked the deal citing competition law, saying the Azeri company must give up a 17 percent stake in DESFA so that it falls below 50 percent. Italy’s gas grid operator Snam has expressed interest in buying the 17 percent stake.

Energy Minister Giorgos Stathakis and Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister Dimitris Liakos discussed the deadlock with SOCAR deputy vice president for investments and marketing Vitaliy Baylarbayov, and a representative of Snam.
The ministry source said talks must conclude by the end of the month, otherwise the letter of guarantee submitted by SOCAR will expire and expressed the view that a solution is possible, noting the Greek side is not discussing a change in the conditions set in the tender or in the law that raised DESFA’s gas tariffs at a lower amount than SOCAR had accepted.