China's State Grid seals purchase of stake in Greek power grid

ATHENS (Reuters) - China’s State Grid [STGRD.UL], the world’s biggest utility, signed on Friday the purchase of a minority stake in Greece’s power grid operator ADMIE, China’s second big investment in the debt-laden country in a matter of months.

Power lines and wind turbines are pictured at a wind and solar energy storage and transmission power station of State Grid Corporation of China, in Zhangjiakou of Hebei province, China, March 18, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

ADMIE was fully owned by Greece’s state-owned power utility Public Power Corp. (PPC). Shareholders of PPC cleared last month the 320 million euro ($334 million) sale of a 24 percent stake in the operator to State Grid.

The deal comes after Greece sold earlier this year a 51 percent stake in its biggest port, Piraeus, to China’s biggest shipping company COSCO Shipping for 280.5 million euros.

In a signing ceremony in Athens, State Grid said Greece was a market of strategic importance and its investment in ADMIE, Greece’s independent power transmission operator, would boost the company’s prospects.

“We made huge efforts, we overcame many difficulties to come to this historic moment,” said State Grid’s Chief Executive Officer Kou Wei.

“IPTO (Independent Power Transmission Operator) is an outstanding company ... and we believe that, with our participation, it can make further progress in the future.”

ADMIE is planning to expand its network to the Greek islands and outside Greece.

“We think that State Grid’s holding in ADMIE is a guarantee and creates new prospects so that these projects are completed successfully,” PPC’s Chief Executive Manolis Panagiotakis said.

ADMIE’s sale is part of Greece’s international bailout, with the leftist-led government agreeing with lenders to spin off the operator while keeping it under state control. Greece has to conclude the plan by March or fully privatize the grid, a possibility which Panagiotakis has ruled out.

Another 25 percent holding in ADMIE will be sold to the state.

Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Mark Potter