SAO PAULO, March 7 (Reuters) - Brazilian homebuilder Gafisa SA is discussing the sale of its high-end Alphaville unit with three potential buyers, including Sam Zell's Equity International, a local newspaper reported on Thursday, citing sources.
Gafisa owns 80 percent of Alphaville, which could be worth about 1.8 billion reais ($914 million), according to the report in O Estado de S. Paulo. The sale would help Gafisa reduce its debt, which is among the highest in Brazil's construction sector.
For Zell, a deal could mark his return to an operation he invested in from 2006 through 2011. Equity International led Gafisa's initial public offering (IPO) but sold the last of his stake two years ago.
In February 2012, Gafisa turned down an offer by Equity International and local private equity firm GP Investimentos to buy some of its assets. Zell said in October he continued to invest in Brazil and was "not particularly" concerned that quickly rising real estate prices reflected a potential bubble.
Other groups interested in Alphaville are asset management company Hemisfério Sul Investimentos and an unnamed financial firm, which are expected to present their bids by March 22 according to the Estado report.
Spokesmen for Gafisa, Equity International and Hemisfério Sul Investimentos were not immediately available for comments.
Gafisa has said it is considering a stake sale or an IPO for Alphaville, which could allow it to benefit from its highly profitable operations and even keep control of the unit.
Analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse have raised their recommendation on Gafisa shares in recent months, anticipating a boost from the possible sale of Alphaville.