Italy's Finmeccanica in talks with CDP to buy energy unit: paper

MILAN Sat Sep 21, 2013 7:26am EDT

A visitor walks past a stand for Italian defence group Finmeccanica during the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre February 19, 2013. REUTERS/Ben Job

A visitor walks past a stand for Italian defence group Finmeccanica during the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre February 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Ben Job

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's Finmeccanica (SIFI.MI) has asked state-owned holding Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) to make an offer to buy the defense group's energy unit, the Il Secolo XIX newspaper said on Saturday, citing sources close to the matter.

More than one year ago Finmeccanica, Italy's second largest employer, singled out Ansaldo Energia among the assets it wanted to sell to cut its debt pile.

According to the paper, Finmeccanica's CEO Alessandro Pansa met with representatives from the CDP and the government to discuss the possibility of a CDP offer to keep Ansaldo Energia, in which South Korea's Doosan Heavy Industries (034020.KS) is seeking a majority stake, under state control.

It would be then up to the CDP to sell a minority stake to Doosan, should the Korean group be interested in a non-controlling shareholding, the paper said.

A Finmeccanica spokesman said the company would not comment on media speculation.

Doosan said earlier this week it was still in talks with Finmeccanica for a takeover of Ansaldo Energia, although no final decision had been reached.

CDP's strategic investment fund FSI has previously expressed an interest in taking a stake in Ansaldo Energia, which produces gas turbines and employs about 3,000 people in Italy.

Sources said earlier this month that Finmeccanica had reached a preliminary agreement to sell a majority stake in the power unit to Doosan in a deal that put an enterprise value of between of 1.2-1.4 billion euros ($1.6-1.8 billion) on the whole of Ansaldo Energia.

Finmeccanica controls 55 percent of Ansaldo Energia, with the rest in the hands of First Reserve. The U.S. fund bought its stake a couple of years ago for around 500 million euros.

But the defense and aerospace group has struggled to carry out planned sales due to political opposition to foreign takeovers as a protracted economic crisis forces many Italian entrepreneurs to put their businesses on the block.

Finmeccanica is 30 percent owned by the Italian state and needs government backing for sensitive strategic issues like disposals. ($1 = 0.7402 euros)

(Reporting by Agnieszka Flak and Danilo Masoni; editing by Ron Askew)