Bulgaria has decided to invite five companies to submit binding offers in the process of selection of a strategic investor in its 2,000 MW Belene nuclear power plant (NPP) project, the energy ministry said on Thursday.The shortlisted candidates are: China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, Russia's Atomenergoprom, a subsidiary of Rosatom, France's Framatome and US-based General Electric, the energy ministry said in a statement. Invitations for submitting binding offers will be sent to the shortlisted candidates by the end of January 2020.Framatome and General Electric have been put on the shortlist after they proposed to supply equipment for the project and arrange financing for it, the energy ministry said.General Electric has expressed interest in structuring project finance as well as participating as a designer and a supplier of equipment for turbine control room, compressors, transformers and other pieces of equipment. Framatome has stated its interest in taking part in the structuring of project finance for safety systems, including electrical ones as well as control systems.A total of 13 candidates had expressed interest in the project, seven of which declared intention to take part as strategic investors. The 90-day period for expression of interest started on May 22, when the energy ministry published an invitation in the Official Journal of the European Union. The procedure gives an opportunity to the candidates to interest interest in acquiring a minority stake in the future project company and/or to purchase electricity from the NPP to be built in Belene, on the Danube river. In August, North Macedonia and two Bulgaria-based companies - Atomenergoremont and Grand Energy Distribution, declared interest to acquire minority interest in the project company. They have also declared interest in purchasing electricity from the future NPP."The procedure is flexible, giving options to the selected strategic investor to negotiate with the companies interested in acquiring a minority stake or purchasing electricity from the future power plant," the ministry said at the time. In June 2018, the parliament mandated energy minister Temenuzhka Petkova to seek potential strategic investors willing to build a nuclear power plant in Belene - a project abandoned since 2012 which the government aims to revive.Belene NPP must be built on a market basis, as the state will not sign long-term power purchase agreements with the investor, nor will it provide state guarantees, the energy ministry said in March. Bulgaria will participate in the project company via a non-monetary contribution - the reactors and other equipment plus the construction site and the respective licences.In December 2016, following international arbitration, Bulgaria paid some 600 million euro ($667.4 million) in compensation to Russia's Atomstroyexport for the equipment already manufactured by the company for the project. The equipment is now stored at the site designated for the construction of the power plant.