Nine companies have advanced to the next phase in the privatisation of a 49% stake in gas utility SPP - performing a thorough audit and checking SPP data prior to submitting bids, a process known as due diligence.
The steering committee for the sale made the announcement October 26 but refused to name the companies involved.
Advisors to the government on the sale, Credit-Suisse First Boston, have said the nine companies include the biggest players in the gas market.
Two consortia have already come out as ready to battle for the share - Ruhrgas, Gaz de France and Snam have lined up against RWE Gas and Wintershall Gas - and domestic analysts are predicting a fierce fight for the stake. Russian giant Gazprom has also said it is interested.
The state's stake is expected to bring in as much as $3 billion to the state's coffers. The firm is the world's second largest gas distributor and has been valued at $8 billion for the privatisation.