CORRECTED-Australia's Asciano says in talks to sell stake in ports and logistics arm

Thu Jul 17, 2014 10:48pm EDT

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(Corrects headline to show talks are about a stake sale)

SYDNEY, July 18 (Reuters) - Australia's Asciano Ltd said it is in talks to sell a stake in its ports and logistics business, with media reporting state-run China Merchants Group Ltd is interested and that a deal may be worth up to A$1.1 billion ($1 billion).

In a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange on Friday, Asciano said it "has been, and continues to be, in discussions with third parties in relation to a potential sale of a non-controlling interest in its Terminals & Logistics business division".

Discussions are preliminary and no agreement has been reached with any parties at this stage, it said.

Asciano shares rose 4.4 percent to A$5.99, their highest level in eight months.

Chinese firms are increasingly keen on Australian logistics assets which are seen as reliable long term investments with predictable returns. In April, China Merchants Group Ltd teamed with Australia's Hastings Funds Management to buy Port of Newcastle from the New South Wales state government for A$1.75 billion.

The Wall Street Journal said Goldman Sachs was advising Asciano. Representatives for China Merchants and Goldman Sachs were not immediately available for comment.

In a June 19 statement, Asciano said it is considering "value-adding partnership solutions" for the terminals business but it "will not do this at any price". ($1 = 1.0697 Australian Dollars) (Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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