ROME (Reuters) - Italian aerospace and defense company Finmeccanica SIFI.MI has set a January 23 deadline for bidders to submit binding offers for the whole of its power engineering AnsaldoEnergia unit, a source close to the matter said on Thursday, confirming earlier press reports.
Finmeccanica is selling AnsaldoEnergia and other assets for a total of 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) to avoid a costly credit rating downgrade and focus on its core aerospace and defense activities.
The source said South Korea's Samsung was carrying out a due diligence on Ansaldo Energia, bringing to three the number of potential foreign bidders for the unit.
Finmeccanica owns 55 percent of AnsaldoEnergia, while the remainder is held by U.S. fund First Reserve, which has a right of first refusal of the Italian group's stake.
First Reserve bought the stake a couple of years ago for around 500 million euros.
In the last few months, also a group of Italian investors led by state-backed fund FSI had expressed interest for AnsaldoEnergia. The fund had made an offer only for a 25 percent stake.
Reporting By Paolo Biondi, writing by Danilo Masoni; editing by Giselda Vagnoni and Antonella Ciancio