MILAN Italy's Industry Minister Corrado Passera would prefer an Italian bid for the AnsaldoEnergia unit that Finmeccanica SpA SIFI.MI has put on the block to restructure its business.
Germany's Siemens AG SIEFn.DE, Europe's biggest engineering group, emerged last week as favorite to buy AnsaldoEnergia, whose disposal is vital for the turnaround of Italy's No.2 industrial group.
The possibility of a Siemens bid prompted state-backed Fondo Strategico Italiano (FSI) to send a rival expression of interest for the company, two sources close to the matter said on Monday.
"All remains to be seen. But it's clear that whenever there is a possibility of having Italian businessmen investing in Italy, this is a preferable solution," Passera told reporters on Tuesday on the sidelines of an event.
The sale of AnsaldoEnergia, a power engineering company with a strong presence in North Africa, could become the first major disposal for Finmeccanica Chairman Giuseppe Orsi, who is under pressure from a corruption probe and has promised to sell assets worth 1 billion euros by the end of the year.
An offer from FSI for the 55 percent Finmeccanica owns in AnsaldoEnergia would be made together with three Italian groups, a trade union source said on Tuesday.
U.S. fund First Reserve owns the remaining 45 percent.
AnsaldoEnergia's top management may back an Italian offer by taking a "symbolic" stake, a person familiar with the situation told Reuters.
Siemens could table a 1.3 billion euro ($1.7 billion) offer for the Genoa-based company, two bankers familiar with the German conglomerate's strategy said in July.
Shares in Finmeccanica closed up 3.2 percent at 4.01 euros, outperforming a weaker market. ($1 = 0.7731 euros)
(Reporting by Sara Rossi and Danilo Masoni; Editing by David Holmes)