Greek utility PPC to cut unpaid bills by one third by 2020

Greece's dominant electricity utility Public Power Corp. (PPC) aims to reduce its unpaid client bills by one third by 2020 in a bid to return to profit, a senior executive said on Thursday, report agencies.  

The 51 percent state-owned utility has been struggling to collect about 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion) of unpaid bills, which soared during the Greek debt crisis.  It is also looking to shore up its finances by securitising part of those arrears. PPC, with 75% of the domestic retail market, is key to the country's energy security. It suffered a large loss last year, hit by a jump in carbon emission rights and the sale of power to alternative producers at below-cost prices. "By 2020 we would have reduced our commercial receivables by 950 million euros ... above our business plan target of 865 million," Chief Executive Officer Manolis Panagiotakis told an annual shareholders meeting.

PPC's shares plunged last week after a media report said the utility was in need of fresh funds to avert banks from calling in loans.

"PPC is not collapsing, is not at a precipice ... it is a company with problems that can be solved," Panagiotakis said.

Under Greece's post bailout arrangement with its international lenders, PPC has to sell three coal-fired units after an EU court ruled the utility had abused its dominant position in the domestic coal market.

After an inconclusive tender to divest the units, PPC relaunched the sale with a July 15 deadline for binding bids.

Panagiotakis said if the new government that will emerge after a national election next month decides to sell a majority stake in PPC, its first priority should be to find a strategic investor and not sell the power units.

"It will be a nightmare," he said, to first sell power units and then to try to find a strategic investor.