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Trading of Enron shares halted; judge delays announcement on auction process

SHARE Trading of Enron shares halted; judge delays announcement on auction process

NEW YORK — Beleaguered Enron Corp. planned to select one of two suitors to buy its wholesale energy trading operation in an auction expected to end late Friday morning, a source familiar with the situation said.

The auction was being held in private and the selection of a buyer was cected to be announced at a bankruptcy court hearing that was originally scheduled for 10 a.m., but was delayed until noon.

Trading in Enron shares was delayed Friday morning on the New York Stock Exchange as negotiations for a sale continued pending an anticipated announcement.

Enron said late Thursday that negotiations for a sale were continuing through the night.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said early Friday that the talks were continuing and the field had been narrowed to two, but declined to name the suitors. Investment banks that reportedly have an interest in buying into Enron include Citigroup Inc. and UBS Warburg.

In a related matter, Judge Arthur Gonzalez said he expected to rule Friday on a request to transfer the bankruptcy case to Houston.

Gonzalez will have the final word Friday on any sale that takes place as a result of the auction. More than a dozen Enron creditors have filed objections to the sale, essentially because they want a better explanation of how the proceeds will be divvied up.

Dissatisfied creditors will have 10 days to appeal Gonzalez's ruling.

Before its collapse late last year, Enron was the world's largest energy merchant, accounting for roughly 25 percent of all trades in a market it helped pioneer. Enron differed from competitors in its penchant for complex bets on everything under the sun — advertising space, broadband, paper, the weather and more than 1,000 other products.