EPH Would Use SPP to Penetrate Czech Gas Market

Speculations about a takeover of Slovak gas utility SPP continue, and it looks like the potential investors want to use the company as a channel for the Czech market. Here The Daily provides a translation of part of an article in today’s Hospodarske Noviny on the subject.

By Petra Jamrichova

Bratislava – Slovenský plynárenský priemysel (SPP) wants to expand in the Czech Republic. At least that is the plan for the company held by the financiers in the consortium of Energetický a průmyslový holding, which is trying to acquire a share in our company.

“The holding sees huge potential on this market, and it would be a pity not to utilise it,” a trustworthy source who is acquainted with the situation told HN. A condition for this, though, is the acquisition of the 49% stake in SPP from the French and the Germans.

Behind the holding are financial group J&T, PPF of the richest Czech, Petr Kellner, and Daniel Křetínský. They will have to battle with competition in the Czech Republic, though. The holding could try to gain a better influence in the Czech Republic also by acquisition. “Around 40 companies are successfully doing business here. Purchasing them is possible, but we are talking about huge sums” claims Vladimír Štěpán, director of the advisory company ENA.

In our Czech neighbour the holding is already number one in the heating business and the second largest company in the generation of electricity, but so far it is not involved in the gas business. It is precisely the entry to SPP that would enable it to boost its influence in the Czech Republic, where our gas company is already represented.

According to the findings of HN, the expansion is being pushed chiefly by Petr Kellner. The advantage is that gas prices there, unlike in Slovakia, are not regulated. Their Energetický a průmyslový holding (EPH) wants to buy up almost a one third share in Slovak Gas Holding for more than a billion euro.

“Based on growth using the SPP structure, EPH could achieve success on this market. Of course, growth by acquisitions can also not be ruled out” said our informer in clarification of the plan, adding that the holding is helped by the fact that they know the local gas market.

A chance of them being successful is acknowledged also by experts. “It will be very difficult, though. At the present time around 40 companies are successfully operating here. Buying them out is possible, but at really huge sums” said Vladimír Štěpán, director of advisory company ENA, who adds that they could start with buying up companies at anytime.

One key fact plays in favour of EPH in this case. “In the Czech Republic the number of households that are changing their gas supplier is rising. In the past year alone some 100,000 households did so, while we project this to increase further,” explains Štěpán, adding that even though the same trend can be seen in Slovakia, compared with the Czechs it is a negligible figure. “Only a few thousand households changed supplier in Slovakia last year,” emphasised director of the company ENA. He also pointed out that in his opinion SPP has a chance to gain around ten percent of the overall market in the Czech Republic.

According to our findings, though, EPH plans to acquire a one fifth market share. Today a dominant position is enjoyed by the company RWE. “Our current share of the market is around 60 percent,” spokesman for the RWE group Martin Chalupský told HN.

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