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Rediff.com  » Business » Rivals for Jaguar await Ford verdict

Rivals for Jaguar await Ford verdict

December 13, 2007 10:07 IST

The three groups vying to buy Jaguar and Land Rover expect to hear from Ford Motor with its choice of a preferred bidder for the two carmakers by the end of this week.

People close to Indian carmakers Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra, and the buy-out group One Equity Partners, said on Tuesday that they expected Ford to respond imminently to their revised offers made last week.

The offers are said to range from about $1.8bn to $2.2bn. Mahindra is bidding together with private equity group Apollo Management.

While two people close to the deal said they expected a response from Ford by Wednesday, the complex deal has faced numerous delays, and so the decision could be further postponed.

Tata, whose bid was endorsed by Jaguar and Land Rover's unions last month, is seen as a frontrunner in the sale.

"Jaguar is Tata's for the taking," one person close to a rival bidder said on Tuesday.

The Indian carmaker is said to have given its assurance that it will keep Jaguar and Land Rover's current management and UK manufacturing base largely intact.

Price will play only a small part in the sale, the proceeds of which will do little to ease Ford's financial losses.

However, the deal is politically sensitive in the UK, a big overseas market for the US carmaker.

Ford has also pressed bidders to outline their plans for the carmakers' pension fund, future supply arrangements, and the brands' financial services arm.

The bidders are requesting, in turn, that Ford keep a minority stake in the carmakers to ensure its future support in such areas as engines.

The bidders also want Ford's continued involvement so that the Detroit company's volume cars can be pooled with Jaguar and Land Rover's larger vehicles for the purposes of draft European Union legislation on carmakers' carbon dioxide emissions.

Ford is not commenting on the sale, and will not make a public announcement on its choice of preferred bidder.

Some company officials told the unions last week to expect a decision in 10 days to two weeks.

Once a preferred bidder is chosen, Ford and the buyers will have to work out a series of agreements covering areas such as as engine supply.

Ford says it hopes to complete the sale by the first quarter of next year.

John Reed in London and Joe Leahy in Mumbai