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ATHENS, July 10 (Reuters) - Greece expects potential investors will offer at least 400 million euros ($456 million) for a majority stake in its gas grid operator DESFA, Energy Minister George Stathakis said in an interview with Naftemporiki newspaper.
Greece, under pressure by EU lenders to conclude the sale as it has earmarked about 180 million euros of the proceeds in this year's budget, relaunched the tender in June after a 400 million euro deal with Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR fell through over gas tariffs among other issues.
"We anticipate that the price will be the same or even bigger (compared with the previous tender)," Stathakis said in the interview published on Monday.
It has set a July 24 deadline for potential investors to submit initial expressions of interest.
Greece's privatisation agency HRADF owns 65 percent of DESFA and the country's biggest oil refiner Hellenic Petroleum the rest.
The country wants to promote itself as a European hub for the transit of gas from Asia and the eastern Mediterranean to Europe. It has launched a plan to find more oil and gas, spurred on by its protracted financial crisis and encouraged by recent large gas finds offshore Israel and Cyprus.
Stathakis said Greece could start earning the proceeds from offshore exploration around 2025.
Hellenic Petroleum and the country's sole oil producer, Energean, have secured licences to look for hydrocarbons in western Greece.
Oil majors Total and ExxonMobil have also applied for oil and gas exploration licences off the island of Crete. ($1 = 0.8779 euros) (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; editing by Susan Thomas)