DETROIT - Among automotive suppliers, the proposed breakup of ITT Automotive has become the biggest poker game around.
Half a dozen companies may make bids to buy part or all of ITT Automotive, according to industry sources.
The list includes Delphi Automotive Systems, Visteon Automotive Systems, Valeo, Siemens, Mannesmann and Tenneco.
Several of these companies have recently inspected ITT Automotive facilities.
Although plant tours do not guarantee a bid, other sources offer reasons why these companies would be interested.
Visteon is marketing its ability to design entire chassis systems. Antilock brakes would be a key addition to Visteon's product lineup of axles, suspension parts and mechanical brake components. Moreover, Visteon wants to expand sales to non-Ford customers. The purchase of ITT Automotive would accomplish both goals.
Delphi makes antilock brakes for its corporate parent, General Motors, and is developing future technologies such as brake-by-wire. But Delphi also wants to expand sales to non-GM customers. ITT would help it do so.
The US supplier Tenneco Automotive wants to make the corners of a vehicle - that is, the suspension and brakes. The company has already formed a joint venture on such a project with ITT Automotive. That venture has given Tenneco a chance to learn more about its partner.
Siemens may bid on ITT Automotive's $1.7 billion electrical division, which makes small motors, switches and lamps. The German supplier dominates that segment. Siemens is less likely to bid on ITT Automotive's $2.2 billion brake and chassis division, which does not easily fit its product portfolio.
Valeo's chief executive Noel Goutard named ITT Automotive as a company he was interesting in acquiring. Valeo wants more electronics business especially.
Mannesmann has been named in the German press as a buyer. Mannesmann makes clutches, shocks and struts, and the brake business would fit nicely.
Other bidders could include such companies as Meritor Automotive Inc. and Hayes Lemmerz International Inc., both US companies.
ITT Automotive's archrival - Germany's Robert Bosch - is likely to be a no-show. The merger of the world's two biggest makers of antilock brakes would set off antitrust alarms among US and European regulators.