India's UTI Asset Management is close to selling a 26 percent stake for $175-$200 million to one of at least four investors and private equity firms, valuing the firm at 7-8 percent of end-January average assets, banking sources said.

UTI has held talks with U.S. money manager T Rowe Price, Japan's Shinsei Bank and private equity firms Actis and ChrysCapital for the deal, likely to close by late February, three banking sources and one company source with knowledge of the transaction said.

The sources, including one who is directly involved in the negotiations, declined to be named as they were not authorised to speak to the media. One banking source said T Rowe Price was the front-runner.

Last July, UTI Asset Management dumped plans for a $480 million initial public offer of a 49 percent stake due to falling stock markets.

UTI, the fourth-largest Indian mutual fund and the most profitable, had assets worth $9.5 billion at the end of January.

Two bankers said the stake was likely to be sold at 7-8 percent of the value of the assets under management.

"That is (valuation) the final bone of contention. The finer details are being worked out," one banker said.

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