The three bidders for Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) will be asked to submit binding bids for the oil refiner on March 8, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said yesterday. Russia’s largest oil group Lukoil has teamed up with Greece’s Latsis Group to bid for a 23-percent stake in ELPE. The Latsis Group holds a majority stake in Petrola Hellas, the third-largest oil refiner in Greece. Yukos Oil, the second biggest oil group in Russia, and Austria’s OMV Group, are the other two bidders. ELPE needs a strategic partner to help it break into the Balkan market, its next stage of expansion. Apart from an ongoing hydrocarbon study in Albania and the construction of a pipeline connecting Thessaloniki with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), it has made little headway in the Balkans. With the bidders due to submit binding bids by early next month, ELPE’s search for a strategic partner should be completed before Easter, the minister said. «We have set the end of April as the target date by which the procedure for finding an international partner for ELPE should be completed,» he said. Separately, Deputy Development Minister Dimitris Georgakopoulos said the privatization of the Mont Parnes casino resort on Mount Parnitha, the three marinas in Attica and Hellenic Tourist Properties (ETA), the asset management arm of the Greek National Tourist Organization, is due to proceed to the next stage. Hotel chain Hyatt Regency, which submitted a joint bid with construction company Hellenic Technodomiki and the grouping of Casino Loutraki, Piraeus Bank and local businessmen which tendered the other offer will be invited to submit financial offers after the evaluation committee approved their binding bids. Georgakopoulos said ETA will discuss management and shareholder details with the two candidates. He did not disclose the timeframe for the process. Bidders for the marinas at Zea, Alimos and Flisvos, on the other hand, will be asked to present binding offers by the end of March. The concession includes a share stake. ETA in turn is scheduled to apply to the Athens Stock Exchange in early May for a listing. «We are now conducting due diligence and legal checks on ETA in preparation for its flotation,» Georgakopoulos said. Hellenic also said that the tender prices were low at $7-$7.50 a ton over the reference Mediterranean prices – several dollars below the price of the company’s previous tender in autumn 2001.