The State does not plan to sell more than a 23-percent stake in oil refiner Hellenic Petroleum, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said yesterday. He also dismissed speculation that the company could merge with its prospective bidder. The minister defended ongoing negotiations with the consortium of the Latsis Group and Russian oil giant Lukoil on the sale of 23 percent of Hellenic Petroleum, denying that it represents a sellout of the Greek refiner. «This is part of a strategy to link Hellenic Petroleum up with international partners,» he said. He said a strategic alliance is necessary if the oil refiner is to play a key role in Greece’s goal of becoming an energy hub in southeast Europe. Tsochadzopoulos said the State will stick to the terms of the privatization tender, namely that it will sell 23 percent of Hellenic Petroleum to a strategic investor. «I want to make it clear that the terms of the contest will be honored or there will be no sale,» he said. The avowal came in response to reports that the consortium of the Latsis Group and Lukoil is interested in merging the former’s oil refinery operation Petrola with Hellenic Petroleum. The joint bid has offered 7.5 euros for each Hellenic Petroleum share. Tsochadzopoulos said the government’s policy toward the oil refiner is the same as for other state entities such electricity company PPC and gas entity DEPA. The State will continue to hold a majority stake and the management of these companies, he said. Hellenic Petroleum yesterday took delivery of a carrier with a net capacity of 1,585 register tons. The vessel will deliver propylene and liquified pressurized gas, estimated at around 100,000-120,000 tons annually, from the Aspropyrgos plant to the propylene unit in Thessaloniki, which was opened in March. The 18-year-old ship cost $5.7 million, which Hellenic Petroleum expects to pay off in two years. Conversion and maintenance works came to $300,000. In 2001, GNP shrank by 9.4 percent due to the consequences of the liquidity crisis.