May 11, 2016 / 1:57 PM / 4 years ago

Greece says Azerbaijan's SOCAR still looking to divest Greek gas grid stake

ATHENS, May 11 (Reuters) - Azerbaijan’s state energy firm SOCAR is still looking for an investor to divest a stake in Greece’s natural gas grid operator DESFA, a key condition to conclude the acquisition of the Greek company, Greece’s energy minister said on Wednesday.

SOCAR clinched a deal in 2013 to buy a 66 percent stake in DESFA for 400 million euros ($448 million) but the company was looking to divest about 17 percent of DESFA after the acquisition was completed to address EU anti-trust concerns.

“SOCAR has not found for the time being (an investor) to sell at lest 17 percent which is required so that its stake drops to 49 percent,” Energy Minister Panos Skourletis told Reuters.

Debt-laden Greece, which signed a third international bailout last year, would cash in 188 million euros from the deal. Greece’s biggest oil refiner Hellenic Petroleum, which also owns 35 percent in DESFA, will get the rest.

Hellenic was the first European refiner which announced in January an agreement to restart trade relations with Iran.

Skourletis said Hellenic Petroleum received the first Iranian crude oil cargo last month and that Tehran wanted Greece to be a gateway for Iranian oil to Europe.

“It has been raised by the Iranian side,” he said, adding that Greece was eager to play that role since it had one of the most modern refining infrastructure in the Mediterranean region.

Greece has been seeking to boost its role as a regional energy hub and will sign off the construction of a 2-billion-euro pipeline, Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which will transport gas from Azerbaijan to Europe on May 17.

Skourletis said TAP fitted well with another gas pipeline scheme, Interconnnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB), and a planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) project off the northern Greek city of Alexandroupolis.

He said he would meet his Bulgarian counterpart Temenuzhka Petkova and officials from several interested parties, including U.S-based liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter Cheniere, Italy’s Edison and Greek energy firm Copelouzos on Monday to discuss the LNG terminal. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou, editing by David Evans)

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