The privatisation of Pakistan State Oil, the country's largest oil marketing firm, is on track with bidding due to take place in October, the investment and privatisation minister said yesterday.

Abdul Hafeez Sheikh told reporters that the previously delayed privatisation process was now moving ahead quickly, with three major transactions due to take place next month.

Investors are keenly awaiting the sale of a 51 per cent stake in PSO, which analysts say is likely to fetch between $500 million and $800 million, although Sheikh declined to comment on the likely price tag.

"I think by a maximum of 10 days we will be in a position to finalise a date (for PSO). The bidding date will be in October," he said.

PSO accounts for 70 per cent of the country's petroleum product sales and is 51.8 per cent owned by the government.

Pakistan has shortlisted three bidders for PSO - state-run Kuwait Petro-leum Corp, Saudi Arabian group MIDRC and Pakistan's Fauji Foundation.

Sheikh said 3.2 per cent of shares of state-owned National Bank of Pakistan would be sold on the stock markets on October 8 to 10 at a slight market discount, which analysts saying the discount was expected to be between three to 10 per cent.

Sheikh also said an initial public offering of five per cent of shares in the state-owned Oil and Gas Development Corp (OGDC) would be held on October 22 to 24.

"Everything is being done on a fast track," he said, adding that the transactions of National Bank and OGDC were being designed so that small investors could participate in them.