Vinashin says in talks with Mitsubishi Heavy on unit stake sale

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Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group is in talks with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and other foreign companies as it seeks to sell stakes in units to help pare debts and restructure operations.

State-owned Vinashin, as the shipbuilder is known, is talking to Mitsubishi Heavy about a diesel-engine making unit in the northern port city of Haiphong, Chairman Nguyen Ngoc Su said by phone on Tuesday. Officials from the two companies met last month during an industry exhibition in Hanoi, he said.

"We're willing to sell them a majority stake in the unit if they are interested," Su said. "We are open, and welcome any foreign investors who want to buy stakes in our units, or invest in our uncompleted projects."

Vietnam's biggest shipbuilder is restructuring operations after almost collapsing with debts of about VND86 trillion ($4 billion) as of June 2010. The Hanoi-based company's failure to make payments on a dollar-denominated loan that year roiled the nation's debt markets, prompting the government to order it to focus on its main business.

Mitsubishi Heavy has been providing technical support to Vinashin for building diesel ship engines since 2005, said Hideo Ikuno, a spokesman for the Tokyo-based company. He couldn't immediately confirm whether talks on buying a stake in the engine unit were underway.

Vinashin is also in talks with other overseas companies, Su said without elaboration. The Nikkei newspaper reported the talks with Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy, earlier Tuesday.

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