Substantive discussions being held with Tata: Ford official

DETROIT: Ford Motor Co. has picked Tata Motors Ltd. as the top bidder to buy Jaguar and Land Rover units, the U.S. automaker said Thursday.

In a statement, the company said it had entered into “focused negotiations at a more detailed level” with Tata, which means Tata has been picked as a preferred bidder for the storied British automakers.

“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,” Lewis Booth, executive vice-president of Ford’s European units, said.

Jaguar and Land Rover employees in the United Kingdom were told about the negotiations on Thursday shortly before the company made the announcement.

Ford executives have said they expect to announce the sale of the two British automakers early this year. Ford spokesman Jay Ward in London declined to comment on how much Tata bid for the automakers, nor would he say if the other two bidders — Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. and the U.S. private equity firm One Equity Partners LLC — were still in the running.

But a person who has been briefed on the negotiations said on Thursday that Mahindra and One Equity still were under consideration, although Tata was the likely buyer unless negotiations fell through. “Ford hasn’t told them to go away, and that’s the end of it,” the person told The Associated Press. “Tata’s emerged as the preferred partner.” The person requested anonymity because the talks are confidential.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Mumbai-based Tata Motors confirmed that it is negotiating with Ford. “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,” it said.

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