FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Canadian buyout firm Onex Corp (OCX.TO) is leading the bidding for Swiss packaging group SIG Combibloc Group [SIGN.UL], a source familiar with the deal said on Monday.
Onex is expected to reach an agreement with SIG as early as this week, the source said.
Onex is expected to pay roughly 3.6 billion euros ($4.5 bln) for the world's second largest maker of drink cartons, two different people familiar with the deal said.
Onex had been neck-on-neck with Swiss-based rival Partners Group, after BC Partners dropped out of the running, the sources said.
"It looks like Onex has won the auction, but you never know for sure until the ink of the signature has dried," one of the sources said.
Reuters reported in June that New Zealand's richest man, Graeme Hart, was exploring a sale of SIG.
Earlier this month, sources told Reuters that buyout groups Onex, Partners Group and BC Partners were set to hand in final offers for SIG, in an auction likely to raise less for Hart than initially thought Bloomberg reported on Sunday that Onex was seen taking the lead to acquire the group.
Billionaire Hart bought SIG in 2007. The company is based in Neuhausen am Rheinfall, Switzerland, and has annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of around 420 million euros.
Officials at Toronto-based Onex, Canada's largest listed private equity firm, did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment, as did SIG Combibloc.
Partners Group and BC Partners declined to comment.
(1 US dollar = 0.8004 euro)
(Reporting by Alexander Hübner, Arno Schuetze in Frankfurt, Greg Roumeliotis in New York and Jeffrey Hodgson in Toronto; Editing by Georgina Prodhan and Louise Heavens)