The investor Wilbur Ross is gearing up to make a run at the mortgage insurer United Guaranty Inc., a unit of American International Group Inc., according to mortgage insurance and investment banking sources.

One investment banker described Ross — a principal in WL Ross & Co. of New York and one of the most active bidders on distressed mortgage assets — as the leading bidder for United Guaranty, the nation's fifth-largest mortgage insurer by policies-in-force.

However, it's unclear if Ross is bidding on all or part of the unit or whether he has partners in the effort.

Representatives for AIG and United Guaranty had no comment. Ross did not return a call by press time.

Over the past 18 months Ross has acquired two large nonprime residential servicing portfolios. He was part of an investor group that bought the failed BankUnited in Coral Gables, Fla., a large player in the market for option adjustable-rate mortgages, and he recently hired James Lockhart. Lockhart, a former director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, is familiar with the mortgage insurance industry and its role in guaranteeing loans sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

"Ross' interest in the MI business is very important," a mortgage insurance executive said. "It shows the importance of this business. He can be an important part of the MI business moving forward."

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