December 10, 2018 / 1:28 PM / 5 months ago

Greece gets informal EU approval to push back sale of coal-fired plants -source

* Athens wants deadline extended to Jan. 7 - source

* PPC selling 3 plants and a licence to build a new one

* Athens wants coal-fired plants divestment wrapped up by Jan. 15

*

By Angeliki Koutantou

ATHENS, Dec 10 (Reuters) - The European Commission has informally allowed Greece’s Public Power Corp. (PPC) to extend the deadline for binding bids for three coal-fired plants by three weeks, an energy ministry source said on Monday.

Greece agreed to sell the plants under its latest international bailout, which ended in August. The source said potential bidders and advisors had requested that the deadline be delayed until after the Christmas holiday period to give them more time.

PPC, which is 51 percent state-owned, has shortlisted all six investors interested in buying Meliti I and two other plants in Megalopoli on the Peloponnese peninsula, as well as a licence to build a new plant, Meliti II, in northern Greece.

The deadline for the final bids had been set at Dec. 15, and it is not known if all six will submit bids.

An energy ministry official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Greece has sought EU Commission approval for the binding bids to be submitted by Jan. 7 and for any improved offers by Jan. 10. It aims to have concluded the divestment process by Jan. 15.

The Commission has informally approved the request, the official said, and Athens is now waiting for official confirmation of the extension in writing.

The EU Commission and PPC were not immediately available for comment.

The tender is organised by PPC and overseen by the Commission, after a European court ruled that PPC had abused its dominant position in the coal market.

The official said that a final round of talks between the EU Commission and investors on the terms of the sale would start on Monday.

Another source close to the matter said that issues on the table would include a mechanism that would allow PPC and the new owner to share any profit or loss from the plants for a set period of time.

Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Susan Fenton

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