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Chile's Copec favorite to buy Eldorado Brasil, paper says

SAO PAULO, June 16 (Reuters) - A unit of Chile's Empresas Copec SA has emerged as favorite to win control of Eldorado Brasil Celulose SA, whose controlling shareholder has put it on the block after signing a plea deal in Brazil, Valor Econômico newspaper said on Friday.

A person familiar with the talks told Valor that Copec's Arauco unit valued Eldorado at 11 billion reais ($3.36 billion) in a non-binding offer sent to Brazil's billionaire Batista family, Valor said. The Batistas' investments are overseen by J&F Investimentos SA, which owns 81 percent of Eldorado.

Copec's Arauco is being advised by Banco Santander Brasil SA and law firms Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett LLP and Mattos Filho Advogados, Valor said. A transaction could be announced as early as Friday or over the weekend, the newspaper added.

A representative of Santiago-based Copec could not be immediately reached for comment. J&F did not have an immediate comment on the Valor report.

With debt hovering at 8 billion reais, Eldorado could be put up for sale, sources told Reuters in recent weeks, after two key members of Brazil's Batista family were ensnared in a corruption scandal. Eldorado's lenders have pressed for a sale.

Brazilian pension funds Petros Fundação and Funcef Fundação dos Economiarios own the remaining 19 percent of Eldorado.

Joesley and Wesley Batista, the family members who last month entered a plea deal with Brazilian prosecutors, named Brazilian President Michel Temer in a corruption scandal.

Earlier this month the government ordered state-controlled lender Caixa Economica Federal to stop providing financing to the Batista family, Reuters reported people familiar with the decision as saying earlier this month. A source described the move as retaliation.

Uncertainty surrounding the plea deal hampered Suzano Papel & Celulose SA's interest in Eldorado, Valor said. Fibria SA, the world's No. 1 eucalyptus pulpmaker, could bid for Eldorado on Friday to seize massive cost savings in a takeover, Valor reported, without saying how it got the information.

This week, Valor said that Fibria seemed the least likely suitor because a key shareholder, state development bank BNDES, is not expected to approve a transaction that could shore up the Batistas.

($1 = 3.2740 reais) (Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)