Greece yesterday launched an international tender for the sale of a stake of up to 35 percent in the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) as it seeks to find a strategic investor to help the gas company establish an international presence and at the same time raise funds to reduce the country’s debt. The State currently holds a 65-percent stake in DEPA, and oil refiner Hellenic Petroleum the remaining 35 percent. The share sale would come from the government holding or an issue of new equity by DEPA. Electricity utility Public Power Corporation has an option to acquire up to 30 percent in the gas company. The tender specified that the strategic investor would need to assist DEPA in its efforts to expand abroad, strengthen its position in the Balkans and help transport natural gas from the Caspian region to Europe. It would also play a key role in helping the gas company diversify its natural gas suppliers, currently limited to Russia and Algeria. Greece earlier in the year unveiled a 16-billion-euro plan to become the energy hub for the region. It hopes to achieve the target over the next eight years, based on the construction of pipelines with Turkey and across the Balkans. DEPA holds 51-percent indirect stakes in three regional gas supply companies – in Attica, Thessaloniki and Larissa – with the right to develop further ventures in other parts of the country. In the first stage of the DEPA tender, prospective investors will be invited to submit initial proposals by September 20. Binding bids will be required in the second stage. JP Morgan, the National Bank of Greece, NBG International, EFG Eurobank Ergasias, EFG Telesis Finance and Kantor Management Consultants are advising the government on the privatization. A total of 1.6 million foreign tourists visited Bulgaria from January to the end of July, a 7-percent rise from a year ago.