Vietnam's state-owned Petrovietnam Oil Corp. (PV Oil) plans to sell a 35%-40% stake to strategic investors and expects to raise at least $270 million, it said on March 8.

The privatization of PV Oil, Vietnam's only crude oil exporter and its second-biggest oil products retailer, has been highly anticipated by investors as the government tries to open up the oil and gas sector and raise money through the sale of stakes in state firms.

Major oil companies from Japan, South Korea, Thailand and the Middle East have applied to buy shares, a company official said in an email to Reuters. It did not identify them.

It plans to draw up a list of five potential bidders to submit to the government in March.

PV Oil also plans to offer an additional 10%-15% in an IPO in the first half of 2017, before or at the same time as the stake sale to strategic investors, it said.

It plans to list its shares on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange.

Vietnam, which is slowly opening up its domestic market to considerable investment interest, has completed several major share sales and listings in recent months.

PV Oil's biggest rival in the petroleum retail sector, Petrolimex, said during the week of Feb. 27 that it expected to list shares on the local stock market in April, potentially giving the firm a valuation of around $2.3 billion.

The operator of Vietnam's Dung Quat oil refinery also aims for an IPO in the third quarter of 2017, its CEO told Reuters.