By Pamela Barbaglia and Francesca Landini
LONDON/MILAN (Reuters) - European cable firm Prysmian is finalising an all-cash binding bid for General Cable which could be worth more than $1.1 billion (£0.81 billion), sources familiar with the matter said.
The Milan-based firm is hoping to beat rival bidders and enter exclusive talks to buy Kentucky-based General Cable by mid December, the sources told Reuters.
Prysmian is widely seen as a frontrunner, ahead of France's Nexans, Denmark's NKT and potential Chinese bidders, with binding bids due in the coming days, the sources added.
Italy's Prysmian and Nexans declined to comment, while General Cable and NKT were not immediately available to comment.
General Cable has a market capitalisation of around $1 billion and specialises in aluminium, copper and fibre optic wire and cable products.
It hired JPMorgan in July to kick off a strategic review and identify a possible merger partner to boost growth and maximise shareholder value.
One of the sources said Prysmian is willing to stretch its balance sheet for the right deal as it sees mergers and acquisitions as critical to its growth.
Shares in General Cable rose as much as 4.4 percent on the news while Prysmian climbed 2 percent. Prysmian, which has a market value of 6 billion euros ($7.1 billion), is also working on a parallel bid to buy Nokia's Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN), two of the sources said. The division, valued at about 800 million euros, is one of the top suppliers of undersea cable networks and was bought by the telecom equipment maker last year as part its 15.6 billion euro purchase of French rival Alcatel.
Nokia declined to comment on the sale.
Prysmian has the financial muscle to take control of both General Cable and Alcatel Submarine Networks, but is expected to prioritise General Cable as it sees North America as a strategic market for growth, the sources said.
Prysmian is working flat out to get the General Cable deal done and will then shift its attention to ASN, depending on the outcome of the auction, they added. Prysmian had revenues of 7.5 billion euros in 2016 and does not need to raise cash to finance these deals, the sources said.
One of the sources said Prysmian is a natural buyer for General Cable, but there is only a certain price its boss Valerio Battista is willing to pay.
Battista said in July that the possible sale of General Cable could accelerate sector consolidation and Prysmian was hoping to be part of this.
It bought Dutch rival Draka in 2011 and since then has focused on purchasing small and medium-sized companies in a bid to gain scale in a fragmented market.
(Additional reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Alexander Smith and Susan Fenton)