As Greece continues to liberalise its energy markets as part of the country’s efforts to adhere to its international bailout commitments, Public Power Corporation (PPC), Greece’s biggest electric power company, is morphing from a monopolistic figure into a competitive player. But the transition has not been without a few speed bumps.
Prior to the recession and Greece’s series of international bailouts, PPC, which is 51 percent owned by the state, dominated roughly 90% of the country’s energy industry. In 2015, as part of a reform deal, Greece agreed to loosen the PPC’s grip on the energy market to less than 50% by 2019. The company set about doing this by agreeing to sell a series of its assets, including its coal-fired plants, 40% of its lignite units, and its majority shares of ADMIE, Greece’s largest transmission operator.
Varying aspects of transition have been hard on the company, which reported a 75 percent fall in net profits year-on-year in September of 2017. Despite earnings it reaped from some of the aforementioned sales (many of which have yet to be finalized), the country’s recession has rendered many of the PPC’s consumers unable to pay their electricity bills. The company has offered generous payback schemes to creditors and offered discounts to those who pay their bills on time. This has further squeezed the company’s cash reserves and left it with underperforming numbers while it continues to try to serve millions of customers.
Despite these major hurdles, the company’s CEO, Emmanolis Panagiotakis, is convinced that a new business structure is just what the company needs to revamp its profit earnings. He sees the transition as something that can turn the company into an even better entity in the medium and long-term. “Our strategy is to expand into the neighbouring countries and to diversify our products and activities.” Panagiotakis explained that a regulated restructuring of the company´s operations will allow the PPC to hone in on its strengths and become a stronger, more efficient, and competitive domestic provider, as well as a regional competitor.
The PPC’s liberalisation has brought about a financial collaboration with The China Development Bank to diversify its products, and has created new opportunities for the PPC to expand its presence in the region among Balkan countries. One of the ways that the company plans to thrive in a new liberalised energy sector is to use its brand name and its and understanding of the market within the region to become a key player among Balkan states. “We will exploit this competitive advantage in order to, on the one hand, support the European Commission to establish its policy in the Balkan countries in our region and, on the other hand, to become one of the most important players in this region.” Panagiotakis noted that the company has already begun to generate ties within the regional market of the Balkan countries and specifically with Italy, a country with whom Panagiotakis sees great potential for regional cooperation and European market integration.
The company also plans to steer its new business structure towards green energy in order to contribute to the country’s efforts to meet its Renewable Energy Standards. “We will plan to invest in renewables, in water, and in hydroelectric power units, to take a strong position in the market,” said Panagiotakis. Besides the work that the PPC’s subsidiary PPC Renewables conducts, he noted that the parent company is interested in teaming up with other strong players in financing and energy industries to contribute to top-tier green energy results. This will include joint ventures with regional players like France, and Italy, as well as international partners like the US and Japan.
As the PPC continues to adapt to new market regulations, Panagiotakis noted that the integration of the energy sector will be the biggest hurdle for the company and for Greece’s power industry. “This is the challenge for PPC, not only to survive, but also to grow in this new environment.” With ambitious plans set in place and Panagiotakis at the helm, PPC is sure to generate stability within an ever-changing market.