Finmeccanica to sell asset by year end: sources

ROME Fri Jul 6, 2012 10:23am EDT

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ROME (Reuters) - Finmeccanica (SIFI.MI) is expected to clinch at least one of two deals to sell energy and transport assets by the end of the year, industrial sources said on Friday, as the Italian defense group makes disposals to fix its stressed balance sheet.

Germany's Siemens (SIEGn.DE) is in talks to buy a stake in Ansaldo Energia, while trade union officials have said Japan's Hitachi (6501.T) is carrying out due diligence for transport unit AnsaldoBreda and possibly listed unit Ansaldo STS (STS.MI).

Finmeccanica, which reported a loss of 2.3 billion euros ($2.85 billion) in 2011, is planning asset sales of about 1 billion euros by the year end to help fuel its turnaround strategy and hang on to its investment-grade credit rating.

The state-controlled company, Italy's No. 2 industrial group after car maker Fiat SpA (FIA.MI), is suffering weaker defense electronics sales and a slowdown in its core British, U.S. and Italian markets.

"It's now a more likely probability that Finmeccanica can sell at least one of the two planned disposals in the transport and energy sectors by the end of the year," a source close to the deal said.

"The talks with Siemens are progressing but a bit more time is required," a senior financial source said on Friday.

Industrial sources said Ansaldo Energia, which makes thermoelectric power plants, was worth around 1.3 billion euros and that the sale of Finmeccanica's 55 percent stake could fetch 600-700 million euros.

U.S. fund First Reserve bought 45 percent of Ansaldo Energia last year, in a deal valuing the company at 1.2 billion euros.

Ansaldo Energia made a net loss of 16.3 million euros in 2011 on revenue of 1.2 billion. First-quarter revenues fell 90 percent to 139 million euros from a year before.

On Thursday, local authority leaders in the Genoa area met top Finmeccanica managers to discuss Ansaldo Energia, which has its headquarters in the Italian city.

The industrial sources said no local consortium had express interest, which opened the way for Siemens.

Shares in Finmeccanica, which have lost 64 percent in the last 12 month dragged by concerns linked to judicial investigations, were down 5.2 percent at 1418 GMT.

($1 = 0.8077 euros)

(Reporting in Milan by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Erica Billingham)

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