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GE said to be among bidders for Halliburton assets

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NEW YORK _ General Electric Co. is bidding for two of the businesses that Halliburton Co. is selling to win regulatory approval of its $35 billion takeover of rival Baker Hughes Inc., people with knowledge of the matter said.

GE made offers in recent weeks for pieces of Halliburton’s drill bits and drilling-services businesses, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.

Weatherford International and Nabors Industries are also bidding for the services entity, which is embedded in Halliburton’s Sperry Drilling arm and provides tools that gather important data from wells deep underground as they are being drilled, the people said. Final offers for both units are due within four weeks, the people said. A number of private-equity firms and industrial companies are also bidding, they said.

Representatives of Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE and Houston-based Halliburton declined to comment. Spokesmen for Weatherford and Nabors didn’t immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

Analysts and investors have become increasingly skeptical that U.S. and European regulators will greenlight the merger of the world’s second- and third-largest oilfield-services providers. While Halliburton plans to unload overlapping businesses that generate as much as $7.5 billion in revenue, U.S. officials are still worriedthe tie-up could hurt competition, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News in July.

The European Commission and the Justice Department are reviewing the deal, which is scheduled to close by the end of this year. Halliburton announced the sales of the drill bits and drilling-services units in April. It said last week that it was selling them separately and “considering bids” from “a variety of interested parties,” according to a company statement. Halliburton released the statement after the New York Post reported the Justice Department would force it to sell the assets to a single buyer.

The two drilling units were estimated to be worth as much as $5 billion, people familiar with the matter said in March. It’s not clear what their current market value is since oil prices have collapsed.

Last week, GE received approval from regulators in Europe and the U.S. for its 8.5 billion-euro ($9.5 billion) acquisition of Alstom SA’s energy business. Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s chief executive officer, said in an interview last week that while his focus is on closing the purchase, “we’ll still do more deals.”

GE has been unwinding its massive lending arm to better focus on manufacturing. Lorenzo Simonelli, head of the company’s oil and gas unit, said in February it would look for bargains throughout the downturn. His division has bought $10 billion in assets over the past five years, including a $3.3 billion deal for Lufkin Industries, which makes equipment that puts pressure on fluids so they gush out of the ground easier.

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