Greece will work on a 'rescue plan' for Public Power Corp.: energy minister

FILE PHOTO: A view of the coal-fired power station of the Public Power Corporation (PPC) near the northern town of Ptolemaida, Greece, April 2, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece’s newly-elected conservative government will work on a plan to help state-controlled utility Public Power Corp. (PPC), which is “on the verge of collapse”, incoming energy minister Kostis Hatzidakis said on Tuesday.

Hatzidakis, currently a vice-president for the conservative party, dismissed speculation that the new government was considering selling a stake in the utility, saying there was no interest from investors. He will be sworn in as energy minister later in the day.

“The top priority is a rescue plan for PPC,” he told Greek ANT1 TV station, adding that the government would take action to address the issue to the benefit of Greek consumers and PPC workers.

The conservative New Democracy party won a landslide victory in Sunday’s general election over leftist Syriza. It has promised to unblock and boost investment projects in the country which emerged from a series of bailouts last year.

With about a 70 percent share in the domestic retail market, PPC has struggled to shore up its finances, saddled with more than 2.4 billion euros of arrears from bills left unpaid during the country’s debt crisis, which began in late 2009.

The utility, which is 51 percent state-owned, also has to sell power to alternative producers at below-cost prices to help open up the Greek retail market under a post-bailout agreement between Greece and its international lenders.

This and higher costs for carbon emission rights were among the factors behind a large loss that PPC reported for 2018.

However, Syriza had dismissed the idea that PPC was on the verge of collapse, while the company’s chief executive has said that the utility will turn profitable this year. It plans to securitize part of the backlog of unpaid bills to improve liquidity and recover money owed by what it termed strategic defaulters.

Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Kirsten Donovan