The government yesterday sought to put the drive back into its privatization program as it approved prospective bidders for the second round of the sell-off of a 35 percent stake in gas utility DEPA. Nine companies, among them Edison Gaz, France’s EDF, TotalFinaElf, Gazprom, Sonatrach, SonelGas, Ruhrgas, Eni and Enel, have submitted expressions of interest in acquiring the minority stake in DEPA. The Greek company will present its case to the bidders shortly, with the process expected to last two months. The State currently holds a 65 percent stake, with the 35 percent held by oil refiner Hellenic Petroleum due to be transferred over to Public Power Corporation, the electricity company. Separately, EPA Attica, the natural gas supply subsidiary of gas utility DEPA, is hoping to sign up 90,000 residential and industrial clients in the Attica basin and build up its pipe network to 2,200 kilometers (3,550 miles) over the next five years, the head of the company said yesterday. General Manager Dimitris Zisis said the ambitious targets will depend in part on new retail subsidiaries to be set up with other investors which will look to promote the use of natural gas. Sales of natural gas in northern Attica will be handled by the Suburban Gas Company, in which water utility EYDAP holds a 35 percent stake and construction companies Aktor and Hellenic Technodomiki the remaining 65 percent. The joint venture is committed to sign up 54,000 customers over the next 10 years. It will target residential buildings. Dimitris Koutras, head of Aktor, said the gas retailing company plans to offer a comprehensive package to clients that includes installation, financing and technical support. EPA Attica had a 7-million-euro loss last year on revenues of 12.5 million euros. It expects to post profits next year.