By Francesca Piscioneri and Alberto Sisto
ROME, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Two more potential buyers have emerged for an Italian plant being closed by U.S. aluminum maker Alcoa, a source said on Thursday, bringing the total number of suitors to six and raising hopes of a rescue deal that could save more than 500 jobs.
Alcoa has decided to shut its smelter in Sardinia, an island blighted by high unemployment and slow economic growth, blaming high power prices for undermining its competitiveness.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti’s government is under intense pressure from unions to secure a deal at a time of austerity and deep economic recession.
“There are two other groups that expressed an interest to the government late last night,” a government source said on Thursday, without providing any names.
The source said one was a German fund and one was an Australian group.
Swiss companies Glencore and Klesch as well as Italian wind power company Kite Gen Research and a Chinese company have previously expressed an interest of one.
“The Chinese are sitting on the fence. They wrote a letter to Alcoa but it would appear their interest has cooled,” the government source said.
On Wednesday, a Sardinian official said commodities trader Glencore was expected to present a letter of intent to buy the plant in 10 to 15 days.
Glencore’s interest is conditional on the government being able to guarantee steeply discounted power prices at the plant.
Asked if Europe might block such a discounted price scheme, Sardinia’s president Ugo Cappellacci said he had spoken to EU Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani.
“We have reason to believe a yes will arrive,” he said.
Alcoa was not immediately reachable for a comment.