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GM Explores Selling Hummer to Russian 'Oligarch'

General Motors has had preliminary contact with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska on a possible sale of its Hummer brand, sources familiar with the matter said.

The talks with Russia's richest man have been exploratory as Hummer is not officially on auction yet, the sources said.

GM declined to comment. A spokesman for Deripaska could not be immediately reached.

GM , which has said it will try to raise up to $4 billion through asset sales, has hired Citibank to consider all strategic options for Hummer.

In fact, GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said Wednesday there was "significant interest'' in the automaker's planned sale of assets, but no deals were expected soon.

"Frankly, we are getting some significant interest in our asset sales, including Hummer, but probably it won't be concluded imminently,'' Wagoner said at a news conference in Thailand.

GM, which has lost more than $51 billion over the past three years, said in June it was reviewing the gas-guzzling Hummer, which has hurt its image at a time when consumers want better fuel efficiency.

Hummer's U.S. sales fell 40 percent in the first half of the year.

The contact between Deripaska and GM comes after reports that the Russian billionaire had been in negotiations with the largest U.S. automaker about its expansion plans for Russia.

One of the sources said Deripaska would like to get Canadian auto parts giant Magna International involved in Hummer production if he ends up buying the brand.

In September 2007, Deripaska acquired a 20 percent stake in Magna for $1.54 billion and has pledged to help the supplier expand in Russia, one of the world's fastest growing auto markets and one where the Hummer brand has a strong cachet.

Deripaska, who owns Russian automaker GAZ, had made a failed attempt at buying Chrysler last year. Media reports also said he had been interested in buying British brands Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motor .

Those brands were eventually sold to Indian automaker Tata Motors.

GM has also had exploratory talks with Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra, whose interest in Hummer was muted because of its own plans to launch a truck and an SUV in the U.S. market, sources told Reuters in July.

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