German industrial heir Ludwig Merckle is more confident he may not need to sell drugs distributor Phoenix after cashing in shares in HeidelbergCement, two people familiar with his plans told Reuters.

Merckle could further reduce his remaining stake in the cement maker, worth almost 2 billion euros ($2.91 billion), if it helped avoid a Phoenix sale, one of the sources said on Friday.

On Thursday, Merckle took Kaessbohrer, the world's largest maker of snow grooming vehicles, off the auction block in a show of confidence that other disposals will help him pay back enough debt to appease creditor banks.

The Merckle family would remain a long-term owner of Kaessbohrer because of the considerable stabilisation of the overall situation, Ludwig Merckle said in a statement.

Merckle's father Adolf Merckle committed suicide in January after ceding control over his business empire, which includes generic-drug maker Ratiopharm, to his lenders.

He agreed to the sale of Ratiopharm, the crown jewel of his business conglomerate. More assets might have to be sold depending on what Ratiopharm fetches.

One source said Ludwig Merckle is hoping to get more than 3.5 billion euros for Ratiopharm, while analysts see the selling price at 2.5-3 billion euros.

Ludwig Merckle last month cashed in 1.65 million euros from the sale of HeidelbergCement shares, reducing his stake in the world's fourth-largest cement company to less than 25 percent from more than 70 percent previously.

(Reporting by Alexander Huebner, writing by Ludwig Burger; Editing by David Cowell)