Greece will hold a new international tender for the sale of gas firm DEPA a government official announced on Monday, as the privatization program under way in the context of efforts to raise revenues to tackle the debt crisis, hit a snag.

As the deadline for the submission of final offers for public gas company DEPA and its subsidiary natural gas grid operator DESFA ended on Monday afternoon, the Russian energy giant Gazprom which was expected to make the best final offer for DEPA, as well as other early bidders, did not make binding offers.

In the initial phase, Gazprom had made the top preliminary offer for some 900 million euros (1.18 billion U.S. dollars).

In addition, a second Russian company, Sintez, which was expected to bid for DESFA on Monday also, did not make an offer, leaving the Azeri Socar as the sole bidder.

Following the negative development, Greek Environment and Energy Minister Deputy Minister Asimakis Papageorgiou said that a new tender will be launched for the privatization of DEPA by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), without specifying when.

Russian companies, who had been negotiating the terms of the purchase with Greek officials for months, seem to back track fearing obstacles on the sale from European Commission, according to sources.

Gazprom said on Monday that they did not receive satisfactory guarantees for the collection of due debts to DEPA.

Papageorgiou, as well as HRADF's chief Stelios Stavridis, sought to play down the negative step back. They noted that the bid for DESFA on the other hand enhances the possibilities for the construction of the TAP natural gas pipeline planned to transfer gas from Azerbaijan to Italy via Greece among other countries.

"Certainly there are alternative solutions. We can put them on the table and find the best," Stavridis commented.

Both officials stressed the government's determination to proceed with the privatization program, serving Greece's interests.

However, after the failure of the tender on DEPA, local analysts noted, it seems unlikely that Greece meets the privatization targets agreed with international creditors for this year.

The DEPA's sale was central to the plans to raise 2.3 billion euros from privatizations by the end of 2013, a target which was revised downwards from earlier goals.

After Monday's development, there is concern that other privatization projects, such as the sale of Greek Petroleum which holds a share in DEPA, could also be delayed.

The setback came as troika inspectors returned to Athens for a review of the Greek fiscal adjustment and reform program before the disbursement of further aid. The progress of the privatization program is on the agenda among other issues.

At the launch of the bailout program in 2010 aiming to counter the Greek debt crisis, Athens aimed at a 50 billion-euro total worth privatization of public assets by 2015. Ever since the target has been reduced to 25 billion euros by 2020 due to delays, but problems continue.

Source: Xinhuanet