* Greek crisis means unpaid bills soaring
* Natural gas firm DEPA obtains 100 mln euro loan
* Loan averts disruptions of electricity system
* Other squeezed firms also seeking bank help
ATHENS, June 20 Greece has averted an imminent
energy crisis after gas supplier DEPA secured a 100-million-euro
($127 million) bank loan to pay foreign suppliers, a company
official said on Wednesday.
A cash crunch in Greece's electricity system has left DEPA
scrambling for cash to pay its natural gas suppliers, mainly
Russia's Gazprom, after Greek power producers failed
to pay their bills.
"The money was cashed in earlier today. It gives us a
breather to pay for July and August deliveries," a DEPA official
said on condition of anonymity.
DEPA got the cash from the Loans and Consignment Fund, a
small state-owned lender.
Greece imports all of its natural gas, about 80 percent of
it via pipeline from Russia.
Faced with the threat of supply disruptions, Greek power
authorities and energy companies have been seeking emergency
bank loans to plug the gaps.
The biggest power producer, PPC must roll over 525
million euros ($665.52 million) of debt maturing at the end of
June and has applied for a 130-million-euro loan from the Loans
and Consignment Fund.
At the heart of the energy system's cash crunch is a 350
million euro hole in the accounts of grid operator LAGHE, out of
which privately-run utilities are reimbursed.
The deficit has risen partly because LAGHE's revenues have
been outstripped by big subsidies it must pay to renewable
energy producers as part of Greece's efforts to bolster solar
Two private electricity retailers have also gone bankrupt
without paying LAGHE.
The deficit has deteriorated in recent months due to
Greece's debt crisis, with unpaid electricity invoices soaring
as many consumers refuse to pay an unpopular property tax
charged on the bills of state-run PPC.
Antonis Samaras, head of Greece's centre-right New Democracy
party which won Sunday's elections, has a three-day mandate to
form a government and must reach a deal before evening or risk
returning Greece to the uncertainty which followed an
inconclusive election on May 6.
The government faces immediate pressure to try to soften
bitterly resented austerity measures demanded of Greece under a
130-billion-euro bailout deal agreed in March with the European
Union and International Monetary Fund.
($1 = 0.7889 euros)
(Reporting by Harry Papachristou; editing by Jason Neely)