HANOI, Vietnam (AP) _ The American heavy equipment manufacturer, Caterpillar Co., has been licensed to open an office in Hanoi, the official Vietnam News newspaper reported Tuesday.

A top official at Vietnam's Ministry of Trade, which issues licenses to foreign firms, could not confirm the report. Vice director Duc Minh of the department that handles license applications from U.S. companies said he knew only that Caterpillar had requested permission to do business here.

Caterpillar, baed in Peoria, Ill., dominated the heavy equipment market in former South Vietnam until 1975, when the Vietnam War ended.

Caterpillar machinery, including earth movers and tractors, is still in operation in the south despite a shortage of spare parts, the newspaper said.

The company's biggest local competitor will be Japan's Komatsu, which opened its doors in Hanoi barely two months ago, the paper said.