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Editor/Photographer : Mark Charles
January 3 2008
preferred bidder for Jaguar/Land Rover
Ford has finally confirmed that Tata Motors is lead bidder for Jaguar and Land_Rover.
Following an announcement to employees this morning, the automaker on Thursday afternoon said in a statement: "Ford is committed to focused negotiations at a more detailed level with Tata Motors concerning the potential sale of the combined Jaguar Land Rover business."
The statement from Lewis Booth, who heads both Ford of Europe and the Premier Automotive Group and chairs Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo and Ford of Europe, added: "There is still a considerable amount of work to do, and while no final decision has been made, we will proceed with further substantive discussions with Tata Motors over the forthcoming weeks with a view to securing an agreement that is in the best interests of all parties concerned."
"We're not going into any other detail on the process at all," Ford spokesman John Gardiner in London said in response to a question on bid values.
On deal timing he reiterated the statement's mention of talks in coming weeks.
"We've been saying consistently in the last couple of months that we were anticipating an agreement in early 2008 and that timing is still pretty accurate," Gardiner added.
There was no official word from Ford about whether the two other bidders, Mahindra & Mahindra and private equity firm One Equity Partners, were still in the running.
However, a person who was briefed on the negotiations told the Associated Press earlier on Thursday that Mahindra and One Equity were still under consideration.
"Ford hasn't told them to go away, and that's the end of it," the person told the news agency. "Tata's emerged as the preferred partner."
According to AP, Mumbai-based Tata Motors confirmed the negotiations on Thursday.
"We are now entering a period of more focused and detailed negotiations with Ford. We hope both parties can reach an agreement in the forthcoming weeks, though these are complex discussions and there is still much work that needs to be done before that position is reached," the automaker reportedly said. "We are pleased by the progress in the discussions to date and very positive about the prospects of this business going forward."
Last month people close to the negotiations told the Associated Press the potential suitors had submitted bids that ranged from $US1.5bn to $2 billion.
Tony Woodley, general secretary of Unite, Jaguar and Land Rover's main labour union, told the news agency much still needs to be negotiated with Tata.
"We need further and more detailed meetings and discussions with Ford and Tata which will focus on the job security of our members in the Jaguar, Land Rover and Ford plants in the UK," he said in a statement cited by AP.
"There are also crucial issues around wages, terms and conditions and pensions to address before any final decision is considered."
AP noted that Ford is said to be interested in maintaining its parts supply relationship with the new owners of Jaguar and Land Rover - it builds engines for Jaguar - while industry analysts have said Ford would like to find a buyer that would preserve the Jaguar and Land Rover heritage and jobs in the UK. Ford, top selling brand in the UK, doesn't want to upset British customers, they told AP.
Ford bought Jaguar for $2.5 billion in 1989 and Land Rover for $2.7 billion in 2000, adding them to Aston Martin - a controlling stake was sold for $931m last year - Volvo, and, for a short time, Lincoln, to make up its Premier Automotive Group (PAG).
Ford announced late last year it would retain Volvo, however.
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