Greece’s goal of becoming a regional energy hub for southeast Europe could become a reality in the event that the Lukoil consortium, the largest oil group in Russia, and the Latsis group acquire a minority stake in local refinery company Hellenic Petroleum, according to sources. The offer is one of three bids submitted to the Greek government which is aiming to off-load 15-30 percent of Hellenic Petroleum in a move which would bring its stake down below 50 percent. Austrian oil group OMV and Yukos Oil, the second largest oil company in Russia, are the other two contenders. The sources said that an alliance between Hellenic Petroleum and the Lukoil-Latsis grouping would have a regional focus. The consortium would work together to develop the retail network and production facilities in southeast Europe. It would also aim to become the market leader in the refinery and oil product markets in Albania, FYROM, Bulgaria, Romania and the Ukraine. In short, the strategy would facilitate Greece’s objective of becoming the energy hub for southeast Europe and the Balkans. The sources said a linkup between Hellenic Petroleum and the Lukoil-Latsis consortium could ensure a long-term supply of oil and natural gas for the Greek company which would also benefit from a transfer of technology and expertise from the Russian company. Lukoil is believed to be willing to allow Hellenic Petroleum access to its oil reserves in the Caspian. The sources said it is also agreeable to sharing its exploration and production expertise with the Greek company and make available its natural gas to Greece. Oil aside, the Latsis group is prepared to include Hellenic Petroleum in its joint electricity production venture with Germany energy company RWE. The German input would be invaluable in helping Hellenic Petroleum set up its electricity generating plant in Thessaloniki. The sources noted that the the trio of Hellenic Petroleum, Latsis and Lukoil could push for the construction of the long-delayed pipeline connecting Burgas to Alexandropoulis. For its part, Lukoil considers Hellenic Petroleum a natural complement and a logical extension of its corporate strategy in the Balkans, especially in view of the ongoing consolidation in the oil sector in the region, Ralif Safin, head of Lukoil’s Europe operations, told Reuters early this week. Construction companies, by contrast, were clearly confident about future prospects as the business expectation index for this sector showed a clear hike. Retailers in turn had moderate expectations for the short term but were more optimistic about the long term.