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Tata secures Jag buy-out funds

2008-03-19 07:22

London - Ford Motor Co could announce the sale of its UK luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover to India's Tata Motors in the middle of next week, after Tata secured funding for the deal, sources close to the deal said on Tuesday.

"It's pretty much there," said a source close to the deal. "Dates can come and go, but it could be some time around March 26."

Tata has signed a deal to receive a $3 billion one-year bridge loan from Citigroup and JPMorgan to finance the roughly $2 billion purchase of Jaguar and Land Rover, sources familiar with that deal also said on Tuesday.

Tata is believed also to need money to help pay for manufacturing the world's cheapest car, the Nano, that it will launch in the second half of the year.

An announcement of the Jaguar/Land Rover deal had been expected at the start of this month, but was delayed as the two firms discussed their future relationship, including technology sharing and Ford's provision of engines and body parts for the two brands.

"They've made good progress on getting through the paperwork and it could well be soon after the Easter holidays," said the second source. "I don't think there's been a lot of haggling about price."

Tough debt market

All Jaguar and Land Rover's petrol engines are built in a Ford plant in South Wales, supporting hundreds of jobs there. Diesel engines come from Ford's factory in Dagenham, east London.

The two brands are estimated to be worth around $2 billion.

The Indian firm could raise up to $4 billion on domestic and overseas debt markets, based on its previous announcements and media reports.

But it faces a tough debt market environment as a global financial crisis has raised the premiums demanded by investors, especially from riskier Asian issuers.

Tata, India's top vehicle maker, has been in talks with Ford since it was chosen as the front-runner to buy Jaguar and Land Rover a few days into 2008.

Union negotiator Dave Osborne told Reuters his Unite union was reasonably happy with the deal, after Tata ruled out selling on Jaguar or building Land Rovers in India, and said it would keep the supply agreement with Ford and the UK engineering and design departments.

The only objective the union had failed to secure was getting Ford to keep a minority stake, he added.

Osborne also said that as part of the deal Ford would fill a deficit in workers' pension plans, which media reports put at 250 million pounds ($504 million) to 300 million.

A Ford spokesman said the deal had encountered no major roadblocks and was still expected in early 2008.

"Discussions are still going on," said a Tata spokesman. "We have nothing more to add."


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