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By Michael Flaherty
HONG KONG, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Private equity firms Bain Capital and Silver Lake have submitted formal offers for a stake in Huawei Technologies' mobile handset unit, sources involved with the matter said, as the auction proceeds despite turmoil in global markets.
While suitors often come and go in corporate auctions, it appears as if Bain and Silver Lake are the remaining bidders for a controlling stake in the unit of China's largest mobile phone equipment maker. Formal bids for the deal were due last Friday.
The unit was expected to be worth more than $3.5 billion when the auction started earlier this year.
Though a firm may still pay a premium for a 50 percent-plus stake in the business, growing pressure on the handset sector plus tumbling financial markets make it less likely buyers will want to pay up for the asset, sources say.
The sources did not want to be named because of the deal's sensitivity.
Huawei and Bain did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment. Silver Lake declined to comment.
Several private equity firms including AEA Investors, General Atlantic, Providence Equity Partners and Goldman Sachs' (GS.N) buyout arm are no longer part of the process, sources said, making the Huawei deal a two-horse race.
It's possible that Bain and Silver Lake could team up and buy the stake together, the sources said. Other parties could rejoin the process as well.
Morgan Stanley (MS.N), the bank running the auction, declined to comment.
Privately held Huawei [HWT.UL] hired the bank in May to sell a majority stake in the unit, which is made up of five business groups, among them mobile handsets, data cards for laptops, and routers for home use.
A U.S. partner would give the Shenzen-based company the expertise to beef up its presence in the United States.
Huawei's mobile devices unit doubled revenues last year to more than $2 billion, sources have said.
Bain teamed up with Huawei in a bid for U.S. telecoms gear maker company 3Com COMS.O last year, but the deal was abandoned after U.S. regulators blocked it. One of Bain's managing directors in Asia is Jonathan Zhu, Morgan Stanley's former China chief executive and a veteran of telecom sector deals. (Reporting by Michael Flaherty; Editing by Lincoln Feast)