SYDNEY, Australia -- Fiber cement maker James Hardie Industries Ltd. said it has initiated discussions with “a number of parties” to sell its U.S. gypsum business.

The Sydney-based company said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange that it hired J.P. Morgan & Co. to advise it on the sale process. James Hardie didn't say to which companies it was talking.

The company's board “will consider meaningful offers which arise from the current process to determine whether more value could be created for shareholders by selling the assets than by retaining them,” it said in the statement.

Two months ago, James Hardie said the price of gypsum wallboard declined 44% in the last year as U.S. gypsum companies try to capture market share in the world's largest economy. The mineral is used to make wallboard for housing.

The company could get between $300 million and $500 million for the business, the Australian Financial Review reported in April, saying potential buyers include France's Lafarge SA. and Cie de Saint-Gobain, U.S. Gypsum Co. and British Plasterboard Plc.

In the three months ended Dec. 31, sales at James Hardie's U.S. gypsum unit fell 25% to $59.4 million. The unit's earnings before interest and tax fell 92%.