June 18, 2013 / 8:48 PM / 4 years ago

Greece set to seal natgas deal with Azeri company -source

ATHENS, June 18 (Reuters) - Greece is set to agree the sale of its natural gas grid operator DESFA to Azeri state energy company SOCAR, a senior official directly involved in the talks said on Tuesday.

SOCAR has improved its offer to buy a 66 percent stake in the company to 400 million euros ($536 million), a price that Greece’s privatization agency HRADF finds satisfying, the official said.

“The privatization agency is very pleased, it’s basically a done deal,” the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. HRADF may formally approve the sale as soon as on Thursday at its next board meeting.

A 35 percent stake on sale is owned by refiner Hellenic Petroleum and the remaining 31 percent by Greece. This means that the debt-laden country would get about 188 million euros of the sale’s total proceeds.

SOCAR was the sole bidder to buy DESFA after Russian energy company Sintez and Greek-Czech group PPF-Terna dropped out of the bidding earlier this month.

Greek energy officials have already said they were keen to seal the deal, which is part of the country’s privatization plan under its bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Athens also expects the DESFA sale to raise the chances of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), one of the two rival natural gas pipeline projects vying to become a conduit for Azeri gas to western Europe.

SOCAR already said earlier this week it wanted to increase its market share in Greek gas distribution from its current level of 17 percent and to deliver gas to the country from the major Shah Deniz field off Azerbaijan in the Caspian Sea.

DESFA is a wholly owned subsidiary of state-run natural gas company DEPA, whose privatisation failed earlier this month in an embarrassing setback to Greece’s bailout plan. (Reporting by Harry Papachristou)

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