June 20, 2012 / 11:32 AM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Greece averts energy crisis as gas firm gets loan

* 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 (Adds background)

ATHENS, June 20 (Reuters) - 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 power.

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

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