UPDATE 1-Lafarge in talks to sell stake in Indian unit for $300 mln-sources
* Lafarge selling 20-25 pct stake in Indian unit
* May consider selling entire Indian operations
* Lafarge in global drive to cut debt
By Indulal PM
MUMBAI, Dec 20 (Reuters) - French cement maker Lafarge SA is in talks with private equity and financial firms to sell a 20-25 percent stake in its India unit for about $300 million, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
The world's largest cement maker has contacted a slew of firms, including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Co and Temasek Holdings Pvt Ltd, said the two sources, with a potential deal valuing Lafarge's Indian operations at around $1.2 billion.
Lafarge may also exit India entirely if it gets a strategic investor to buy its operations in the country, said the sources, who declined to be named as the negotiations were private.
Officials at KKR and Temasek declined to comment. Lafarge officials were not available for comment.
Lafarge is in a drive to shed non-core assets to cut its debt to below 10 billion euros ($13.0 billion) from 12.2 billion euros after its purchase of Middle Eastern cement maker Orascom in 2007 led to the loss of its investment-grade credit rating last year.
Lafarge is looking to sell its South Korean unit and has mandated bankers, according to a local media report..
A stake sale in its Indian unit would come at a time when analysts expect demand for cement to start recovering, driven by a government push to expedite infrastructure projects, especially ahead of general elections due by 2014.
Cement sales growth has been slow this year in India as a result of sluggish homebuilding and construction in Asia's third-largest economy and margins of cement makers have been pressured due to an increase in the cost of fuel and transport.
Lafarge started its India operations after buying out Tata Steel's cement business in 1999 and has expanded by buying Indian engineering conglomerate Larsen and Toubro's ready-mix concrete business in 2008.
The French firm currently has four cement plants in India, according to the company's website.