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Indian firms to bid for Jaguar, Land Rover

London, July 26, 2007

Tata Motors, India's top vehicle maker, and local foe Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. have expressed interest in buying Ford Motor Co.'s Jaguar and Land Rover brands.

The report came even as Ford said it plans to continue talks with selected suitors for its Jaguar and Land Rover brands, but stopped short 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.

Along with Tata and Mahindra & Mahindra, US buyout firms TPG and Ripplewood were among those that expressed interest in the marquees, a person familiar with the matter said.

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 had said earlier this month.

India's CNBC-18 TV network said Tata was the front-runner in bidding for the two brands, but did not identify its source.

Mahindra has the advantage of familiarity. India's top utility vehicle and tractor maker was Ford's partner on its entry into India in 1996.

But analysts said the might of the Tata Group, which is India's second-biggest privately owned group, gives it an edge.    'They are in a better position, given their size and the backing of the group,' said Ramnath S, an auto analyst at SSKI Securities.

'It makes better strategic sense for Tata, and (Chairman) Ratan Tata has an obvious passion for these marquee brands.'

Tata Motors is clearly keen on the UK market: it had previously partnered MG Rover to distribute its hatchback there.

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 No. 2 US automaker, 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 nameplates, whose combined value was put at $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion in March by Merrill Lynch analysts.

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.- Reuters




Tags: Ford | Jaguar | Tata | Land Rover | Mahindra |

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