MILAN Italy's Fondo Strategio Italiano (FSI) will present a binding offer to buy a minority stake in Finmeccanica's (SIFI.MI) AnsaldoEnergia unit next week, a source close to the deal told Reuters on Saturday.
Defense group Finmeccanica has put the power generation unit up for sale as part of a drive to restructure its business. It has attracted interest from German industrial conglomerate Siemens AG (SIEGn.DE) as well as from Korean group Doosan (000150.KS) and a group of Italian investors headed by FSI.
Up to now there were only informal candidacies, but with the launch of a binding offer the contest would move into top gear.
"A binding offer from Fondo Strategico Italiano and a group of Italian investors will be presented before Christmas," said the source, who has knowledge of the negotiations between FSI and its partners.
"FSI will bid for a minority stake in AnsaldoEnergia," said the source, without elaborating on the details of the offer.
FSI is a holding company wholly owned by state-backed financing body Cassa Depositi e Prestiti created to help the development of strategic companies in Italy.
In October FSI signed a memorandum of understanding with Gruppo Energia Brescia, Gruppo Acciaierie Venete and entrepreneur Davide Usberti, who controls gas company GasPlus (GSP.MI), to make an offer for AnsaldoEnergia.
The source said the lender Banca Caries CGRI.MI will also participate in the bid.
The offer of FSI and Italian fellow-investors will be based on an enterprise value for AnsaldoEnergia of 1.25 billion euros, daily Corrie dell Sera reported on Saturday.
Finmeccanica has a 55 percent stake in the power generation unit, with the remaining 45 percent stake in the hands of U.S. investment fund First Reserve.
Finmeccanica needs to make 1 billion euros of asset disposals to avoid a possible credit rating downgrade.
The defense group and FSI were not immediately available for an official comment.
(Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by Hugh Lawson)