July 25, 2015 / 8:50 AM / 4 years ago

Greece to seek alternatives to privatizing grid unit: minister

Newly appointed Energy Minister Panos Skourletis addresses the media before a swearing in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Athens, Greece, July 18, 2015. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece will look to alternatives to privatizing its power grid operator ADMIE as part of a new bailout deal with its lenders, Energy Minister Panos Skourletis told the weekly Agora newspaper in an interview published on Saturday.

As part of measures Greece agreed with its creditors to start talks on a new bailout deal, Athens has committed to selling ADMIE unless replacement measures that would also open up competition in the market can be found.

“We will follow the path of alternative, equivalent measures, as has been the case in other European countries,” Skourletis, who took over as energy minister following a reshuffle last week, told the paper.

He said the strategic importance of the power grid meant it should stay in public hands.

A previous conservative government had launched the sale of a 66 percent stake in ADMIE, a unit of the country’s dominant electricity utility PPC (DEHr.AT), and four investors had been shortlisted as buyers.

But the leftist government of Alexis Tsipras halted the privatization along with other state asset sales after it came to power in January.

“We should realize that PPC’s role and its assets managed by ADMIE are priceless,” Skourletis said, adding that he was also against privatizing PPC.

Under a previous plan agreed with its lenders, Greece would spin off PPC and sell part of its production capacity to investors.

Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by James Mackenzie and Hugh Lawson

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