William Taylor, the outgoing top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, has said that "serious American" companies are studying the possible purchase of Motor Sich, one of the world's top makers of aircraft engines.
The United States, which has provided Ukraine with more than $1.5 billion in military aid over the past five years, has lobbied against the possible sale of the strategic company and its advanced technology to China.
Motor Sich is privately owned by its chief executive, Vyacheslav Bohuslayev. The 81-year old said he agreed to sell the bulk of his shares to Chinese companies because they were willing to invest the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to keep the aging plant in Zaporizhzhya running and its thousands of workers employed.
However, the deal has yet to receive Ukrainian government approval.
U.S. President Donald Trump in August dispatched then-national-security adviser John Bolton to Kyiv to dissuade Ukraine from allowing the sale to the Chinese. Bolton subsequently "energized" the dialogue between U.S. companies and Ukrainian officials about the purchase of Motor Sich, Taylor said.
"There are some serious American and other companies interested in Motor Sich," Taylor said in an interview on December 26 in Kyiv with Ukrainian media as he gets set to leave his post on January 2.
"They're doing some due diligence, checking balance sheets, visiting the plant, talking to the owners. They're doing some serious evaluation," Taylor said.
He did not disclose the names of the American companies.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Erik Prince -- a private defense contractor whose company is registered in Beijing and Hong Kong and who is an informal adviser to Trump -- had been in talks to acquire Motor Sich.
A founder of the defense contractor formerly known as Blackwater, Prince had reportedly been to Ukraine nine times since 2014 and visited the advanced aircraft-engine maker's headquarters in Zaporizhzhya.
Citing U.S. officials briefed on the matter, The Wall Street Journal reported on November 5 that the U.S. administration had allegedly approached Prince and at least one other potential buyer to acquire the company, which possesses sensitive technologies.