Italian unions urging Glencore to declare whether company is interested in purchasing Alcoa's Sardinia aluminum plant facing closure amid high energy costs; Glencore pushes decision date to Sept. 10 from Sept 5.

ROME , September 5, 2012 () – Italian unions urged Swiss-based commodities and mining group Glencore to declare whether it is really interested in saving Alcoa's loss-making aluminum plant in Sardinia.

Last week Glencore showed interest in taking over the plant, saying it would give an assessment of the site on Sept. 5, a date it later pushed back to Sept. 10.

Officials from the CGIL, UIL, FIM and UILM unions met Glencore executives in Rome and asked them to firm up their declaration of interest, the unions said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Glencore ... reserved the right to make a final assessment, which will be undertaken in the coming hours, over the possibility of making such a formal expression of interest," the unions said.

A Glencore spokesman declined to comment.

Alcoa, in a statement issued on Wednesday, played down the possibility the plant would be purchased, after Sky TV Italy reported that Glencore was ready to make a formal offer.

"Alcoa conducted a thorough sale process for the Portovesme smelter and engaged with many parties," the statement read.

"Unfortunately, no party has been interested enough to sign a letter of intent indicating their willingness to buy the plant."

An Industry Ministry official said on Wednesday that a new expression of interest in the plant was made by an unnamed U.S. multinational.

"The government has been looking at those who expressed interest a few years ago when Alcoa wanted to sell the sites," the official said.

"Today a written expression of interest was received from a U.S. multinational that said it wanted to evaluate an acquisition."

Trade union sources said the interest came from a U.S. equity fund, while several Italian news outlets named oil and aluminum company Klesch Group as the source. Klesch was not immediately available for comment.

Workers have continued demonstrations to keep the plant open, but on Tuesday Industry Minister Corrado Passera said Alcoa was facing "an impossible situation" and prospects of a swift sale were remote.

The Alcoa works employ some 500 workers with a further 1,000 directly depending on the plant, which is facing closure due in part to high energy costs.

Alcoa has begun powering down the smelter and is expected to shut down the plant entirely by the end of October if no buyer emerges.

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