Petrolimex, Vietnam's top oil importer and distributor, has received government approval to sell around 5 percent of its shares in an initial public offering.
The state would retain a 94.99 percent of stake after the share sale and would reduce it to 75 percent at a later stage, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung said in a directive signed on Tuesday and seen by Reuters.
Petrolimex is the latest of a handful of major state companies to get the go-ahead for a partial privatization, a two-decade long process dubbed by Hanoi as "equitization." In most cases the government still owns the majority of shares.
The privatization process virtually ground to a halt from 2008 as market conditions in Vietnam soured when the economy overheated and the global financial crisis hit. The government had pledged to step it up again this year.
Hanoi-based Petrolimex would auction 27.43 million shares, representing just 2.56 percent of its registered capital of VND10.7 trillion ($522 million), to the public while selling 1.98 percent to employees and another 0.47 percent to the firm's trade union branch, the directive said.
It gave no date for the IPO or details on possible foreign ownership.
Petrolimex, also known as the Vietnam National Petroleum Corporation, has around half of the domestic fuel and oil products market.
Vietnam imported 5.14 million tons of oil products between January and May, down 6.9 percent from a year ago, government data show.
The import volume is expected to rise in coming months as Dung Quat oil refinery, the country's sole facility, shuts down between mid-July and mid-September for its first scheduled maintenance after two years of official operation.
Petrolimex bought 2.27 million tons of oil products in the first five months of 2011, 780,000 tons of which came from Dung Quat refinery, said a state media report posted on Petrolimex web site (www.petrolimex.com.vn) on Sunday.