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Serbia to finish selling 25% NIS stake in Q1 of 2007

„The sale may be closed in the Q1 of next year,” Rados Ilincic, the head of the Serbian office of Raiffeisen Investment AG, which is advising the government on the transaction, said by telephone from Belgrade today. Potential bidders for the stake have to submit a letter of intent to Serbia's asset-sales agency by October 13, the agency said last week. The actual call for offers and the detailed conditions of bidding are expected to be published next week, Ilincic said. European oil companies are looking to the Balkans, where economies and fuel use are growing faster than they are in the west. Last year, Austria's OMV AG bought SNP Petrom SA, Romania's largest oil producer, and Hungary's Mol Nyrt won the bidding for a Bosnian fuel trader, Energopetrol. Croatia has begun preparing to sell INA Industrija Nafte d.d., its oil monopoly. The future buyer of the NIS stake may raise its holding to about 37.5% at the same time by buying new shares in the company and could boost its holding to 49% in 2010, Ilincic said. The Balkan country also plans to sell about 15% of NIS shares to investors through an exchange in Belgrade or abroad, probably in 2010, he added. The Serbian oil company's assets are valued at an estimated $1.3 billion, Ilincic said. Its refineries in Pancevo and Novi Sad have a combined capacity of 167,264 barrels a day. NIS had a market share of 72% in the domestic wholesale and retail oil products market last year, according to Raiffeisen Investment. (Bloomberg)