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Jaguar, Land Rover sale talks heat up

2007-07-27 11:07
London - US carmaker Ford said it plans to continue talks with selected suitors for its Jaguar and Land Rover brands, but stopped short on Thursday of committing itself to selling them.

"We are pleased with the positive expressions of interest in the business we have received and in the strength and quality of the interested parties," said Ford in a statement.

"We are now exploring in greater detail the potential sale of the combined Jaguar Land Rover business with selected parties who have expressed interest."

Ford added, however, there is no guarantee it will agree to a sale.

Ford, based in Dearborn, Michigan, is evaluating whether to hold onto its premium European brands. It has also said it may sell Volvo.

Indian companies Tata and Mahindra, along with US buyout firms TPG and Ripplewood, were among those that Ford plans to continue talks with, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Ford declined to comment on the identity of possible bidders. It had requested expressions of interest and loose valuations from potential bidders by July 19, other sources familiar with the situation said earlier this month.

Ford said last month it was working with financial advisers on the best options for Jaguar and Land Rover. Sources have said Goldman Sachs, HSBC Holdings Plc and Morgan Stanley are the banks on the deal.

The number two US carmaker, which has faced scrutiny over how it will raise and maintain liquidity as it restructures its money-losing North American operations, could get a cash infusion from the sale of the two brands.

The businesses were given a combined value of $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion in March by Merrill Lynch analysts. However sources familiar with the matter said that better-than-expected numbers announced Thursday may push up the price of the units.

Many firms generally interested in the auto sector are choosing to sit out the process because Jaguar is unprofitable and Land Rover lacks the trophy asset allure of Aston Martin, which Ford sold earlier this year.

Neither brand has the scale of Chrysler, which DaimlerChrysler has agreed to sell to Cerberus.

Ford said on Thursday it swung to a surprise second-quarter profit after seven quarters of losses, reflecting cost-cutting and a turnaround at its core automotive operations.

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