NEW YORK, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Coherent Corp, a major U.S. supplier of materials used to make chips for the automotive industry, has attracted interest from four Japanese conglomerates for an investment in its silicon carbide business at a valuation of as much as $5 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The investment would alleviate the financial burden for Coherent, which has said it will invest $1 billion over the next 10 years to expand its production of silicon carbide wafers, which help boost the range of electric vehicles more than chips made with traditional silicon.

Denso Corp, Hitachi Ltd, Mitsubishi Electric Corp and Sumitomo Electric Industries Inc have held discussions about taking a minority stake in Coherent's silicon carbide business, the source said.

Coherent may accept more than one of these companies as investors in the silicon carbide division at a valuation of between $4 billion and $5 billion, the source added, requesting anonymity because the matter is confidential. No deal is certain, the source cautioned.

Coherent, which said in May it would explore options for its silicon carbide business, declined to comment. Representatives for the Japanese companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Chips made with silicon carbide are used in applications that require huge amounts of power conversion, such as inverters and drivetrains in electric vehicles.

Coherent, which has a market value of $4.3 billion and also carries $4.3 billion in debt, also makes lasers and switches for circuits.

The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based company said last month that slower-than-forecasted recovery in China and its customers downsizing their inventory were weighing on its business. Its shares have dropped 22% in the last 12 months versus a 10% rise in the S&P 500 Electronic Components Index. (Reporting by Milana Vinn in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci)