(Adds unit's sales, earnings figures)
By Arno Schuetze and Harry Brumpton
FRANKFURT, May 6 (Reuters) - Volkswagen has approached several companies to gauge their appetite for buying MAN Energy Solutions, which makes large diesel engines for ships and power generators, people close to the matter said.
The informal sales pitch is part of Volkswagen Chief Executive Herbert Diess's efforts to slim down and simplify the group which has 12 brands, trucks, buses, motorbikes, cars and electric bicycles as part of its business.
Volkswagen has not yet started a formal sales process or appointed an adviser for the sale of the company but has contacted rivals in the engine manufacturing business such as Cummins, Wartsila and private-equity owned Jenbacher, these sources said.
Volkswagen declined to comment.
"Volkswagen wants to see what would be possible," one of the people said, adding that depending on the feedback it gets the carmaker could launch a formal sales process later this year.
People familiar with the matter said that they expected MAN Energy Solutions to achieve a valuation of about 3 billion euros ($3.36 billion) in a potential sale.
The business, formerly known as MAN Diesel & Turbo, also makes turbochargers used in the oil & gas industry and in 2018 reported operating earnings of 133 million euros on sales of 3.1 billion euros.
The sources said it could also attract interest from Mitsubishi Heavy, Alfa Laval as well as from private equity groups such EQT, Bain and Cinven if it is formerly put up for sale, the sources said.
The potential sales process follows Volkswagen's decision earlier this year to scrap plans for an initial public offering of its Traton trucks unit, which features the MAN, Scania and Volkswagen Caminhoes e Onibus brands.
Volkswagen has struggled to slim down in the past after the company's works council, which has veto power over major restructuring moves, blocked efforts to sell motorbike brand Ducati and transmissions maker Renk.
MAN Energy Solutions was originally a part of VW's trucks brand MAN, but some of MAN's assets were transferred to Volkswagen last year as part of efforts to streamline Traton ahead of the planned listing. ($1 = 0.8929 euros) (Additional reporting by Edward Taylor Editing by Thomas Seythal and Jane Merriman)