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Ford's European units sell business

It is too soon to say if Ford would keep a stake in its Jaguar and Land Rover units, but a full sale is what Ford Motor Co. wants.

"We're selling the business because we need the money and we need the focus," Lewis Booth, executive vice president of Ford's European units, said during a webcast from the Frankfurt auto show. "We're not going out with the intention of keeping an equity stake."

The automaker lost $12.6 billion in 2006 and has said it expects to burn up to $15 billion (10.8 billion EUR) to $16 billion (11.52 billion EUR) in cash before returning to profitability in 2009.

Booth made no announcement about the sale of the units, but said the Dearborn, Michigan, automaker has been pleased with the interest and quality of the bidders. He said Jaguar and Land Rover probably would be sold and expects a decision late this year or early in 2008.

Ford has not said how much it wants for the combined units, but analysts have estimated they could be worth about $1.5 billion (1.08 billion EUR).

Ford bought Jaguar in 1989 and Land Rover in 2000, joining them with Aston Martin and Volvo to form its Premier Automotive Group. Ford said last month it had completed the sale of its controlling stake in Aston Martin for $931 million (670.5 million EUR) in cash and preferred stock.

Booth on Wednesday said that Ford expects to conclude its strategic review of the Volvo carmaker for potential sale by the end of this year.

Last month, former Ford President Nick Scheele joined with New York-based Ripplewood Holdings LLC in its bid for Jaguar and Land Rover. His involvement pits him against Jacques Nasser, Ford's chief executive from 1999 to 2001, who is leading a separate bid by JPMorgan Chase & Co. affiliate One Equity Partners LLC.

The chairman of India's Tata Group said last month his company is interested in acquiring the units. Ratan Tata said Jaguar and Land Rover could help expand the Tata Motors unit's worldwide reach and reduce its dependence on the Indian market, which currently accounts for more than 90 percent of its sales.

Ford shares fell 5 cents to $7.53 in afternoon trading Wednesday.

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