Ball Corp, the world's largest supplier of beer cans, is exploring a sale of its business that provides aerospace and national defense hardware, such as sensors and antennas, for over $5 billion, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The divestment of the aerospace business, which accounted for 13 per cent of Ball's consolidated net sales in 2022, would allow the Westminster, Colorado-based company to focus more on its beverage packaging operations and trim its debt pile of about $9.7 billion.

Ball launched an auction process to sell the aerospace unit in recent weeks, the sources said. The business has attracted the interest of large defense companies, such as BAE Systems and Textron, as well as private equity firms, the sources added.

No deal is certain, said the sources, who requested anonymity because the matter is confidential. Spokespeople for Ball and Textron did not immediately respond to requests for comment, while BAE declined to comment.

Ball shares rose 7 per cent to $58.57 in afternoon trading in New York on Friday, giving the company a market value of more than $18 billion.

Ball established its aerospace division in the 1950s. It flourished to become a key contractor in areas such as earth science, aerial exploration and national security and intelligence programs.

Ball's aerospace technology enables the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to map global water resources, and helps the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration track weather conditions. It also serves commercial clients.

The aerospace business has been generating steady albeit limited cash flow for Ball, accounting for $170 million out of its $1.45 billion in comparable operating earnings in 2022.