Almost Lights Out for Greece’s Debt-Crushed Public Electric Company

FILE - In this Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, heavy excavators and vehicles of the Public Power Company, PPC, operate in the South Field lignite mine near Kozani town, northern Greece. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS – With the country’s most vulnerable given 40 percent discounts or even free electricity with the government reluctant to order power turned off, Greece’s Public Power Corporation is on the verge of going under because of its staggering, rising debt.

PPC’s financial results issued April 23 showed that losses jumped from 183.8 million euros ($206.13 million) euros in the first half of 2018 to 542 million euros ($607.83)  by the end of the year, after the utility showed a profit of 127.6 million ($143.2 million) in 2017.

If the plants of Meliti and Megalopoli that are up for sale, the total losses for 2018 were 903.7 ($1.013 billion) after profits of 237 million euros ($265.79 million) said Kathimerini.

The news set off another clash between the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, which wants to be lenient on debtors, and the major opposition New Democracy after PPC’s stock plunged 11.75 percent.

An energy analyst not identified told the paper, “We fear that if PPC explodes it will destroy the entire universe,” while another added that, “This is a bomb that not only concerns the electricity market but the whole economy.”

New Democracy energy spokesman Costas Skrekas spoke of “shock and awe,” placing the blame Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Energy Minister Giorgos Stathakis and PPC head Manolis Panagiotakis for, as he claimed, turning the utility into a “zombie company,” of failure.

Panagiotakis said the losses were driven by a 137.9-million-euro ($154.65 million) increase in the price of carbon emissions and the 151.6-million-euro ($170.01 million) increase in the cost from the power auctions in 2018 compared with the year before.

“PPC is being destroyed and responsibility for this lies solely with SYRIZA,” New Democracy spokeswoman Sofia Zacharaki said. “As SYRIZA is falling apart, it leaves behind a ticking bomb under the country’s biggest corporation,” she added.

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