| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Private equity firm Carlyle Group LP (CG.O) has emerged as the front runner to buy DuPont's car paint business after rival bidder Apollo Global Management LLC (APO.N) declined to increase its offer, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Carlyle made the highest bid for the DuPont unit, the people said. The sale may fetch more than $4.5 billion for DuPont, according to two of the people.
While Apollo still remains in the mix, the buyout firm has told bankers it does not plan to raise its offer, leaving Carlyle as the most likely buyer, they said.
KKR & Co LP (KKR.N) and Onex Corp OCX.TO, which had teamed up to submit a final offer for the DuPont unit, have already dropped out of the race, according to the people familiar with the matter.
Carlyle declined to comment. Representatives of DuPont, Apollo, KKR and Onex did not respond to requests for comment.
DuPont received final bids on July 20 from three groups - Carlyle, Apollo and KKR teamed up with Onex - sources told Reuters last month.
Another private equity group that had been previously working on a potential deal - a consortium of Blackstone Group LP (BX.N) and Bain Capital LLC - did not submit a bid at that time.
DuPont's performance coatings business primarily sells to Maaco and other auto paint refinishers. Ford Motor Co (F.N) and General Motors Co (GM.N) are also key customers, although selling to so-called original equipment manufacturers is not as lucrative.
(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis, Soyoung Kim and Michael Erman in New York; editing by Andre Grenon)