Greece: Total, Suez Interested in Hydrocarbon Exploration, Water Utilities

French business groups Total and Suez expressed their interest in entering the country's energy market and acquiring stakes in Greek utilities, respectively, in statements to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) on Friday, on the sidelines of the Greek-French business forum in Athens.

Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne said the company's interest is focused on four sectors, starting with the distribution of Total's petroleum products and especially the shipping industry, since Total has a wide range of existing customers in Greece and is also a supplier for oil tankers. In addition, Pouyanne said his company was "willing to do exploration [for hydrocarbons]".

He noted that the recent discovery of offshore gas in Israel, Egypt and Cyprus has turned attention to Greece. "We want to carry out exploratory drilling in Greece and for this reason we have filed a request to obtain the relevant permits and that's why I am here today," he told ANA. 

"Our philosophy is clear. We operate in each country according to that country's legislation. If Cyprus wants us to do drilling, I will drill in Cyprus. If Greece wants to do drilling, I will drill in Greece. We are a listed company, a trading company, not a diplomatic company. We do not need to resolve anything. We believe it would be good to explore Greece's [hydrocarbon] potential, as it could - under certain conditions - be the foundation for a new industry," he added.

He said the third reason for entering the Greek market were renewable energy sources. "We are looking very seriously into all the possibilities of developing activities in Greece for the production of renewable energy. Wind and solar."

The fourth reason for Total's interest in the country stems from the assessment that Greece will become a form of energy hub, with natural gas transferred to it from Egypt, Russia and Turkey. "So you see there are many reasons for our presence in Greece," he said.

The CEO of the French waste and water group Suez, Jean Louis Chaussade, said his company is interested in acquiring the management of Greece's water utilities through the country's privatisation program.

"Usually we can buy a small percentage of the shares, around 23 pct-20 pct, but what we want is to improve the management - that's what we are good at. So what we want to see from our Greek partners is whether they want to gain access to the kind of new technology we can offer," he said.

"This is something important. Being able to bring technology, new technology, can improve the quality of management, of the distribution network, customer relationships, as we do everywhere and we are good at it. If the government wants to do this, we will be very happy to offer it," he added.

French President Emmanuel Macron, Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras attended the forum.

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