Mumbai: The Tata group is interested in acquiring Ford Motor Co.’s Jaguar and Land Rover brands, the conglomerate’s chairman Ratan Tata said in remarks released on Friday.
“We certainly have some interest in it,” he told the CNBC- TV18 television channel in an interview, excerpts of which were aired on Friday.
“Beyond that, we would not like to offer any comment,” he said in response to a question on whether the group was interested in acquiring the brands.
The remarks were made available by a Tata spokesman.
Cash-strapped Ford, which posted losses of $12.7 billion (Rs52,324 crore) in 2006, has been looking to sell its Jaguar and Land Rover units. The company has taken opening bids and Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally said in late July that the probability of selling the brands is greater than 50%.
Ford had said earlier this week that it planned to have more details on the sale of Jaguar and Land Rover by the end of 2007 or early 2008.
A source familiar with the matter said in July that Tata Motors Ltd and Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, as well as US buyout firms TPG Capital LP. and Ripplewood Holdings Llc. were among those who had expressed interest in a possible bid for the premium brands.
Tata had previously refused comment on the speculation in the Indian media about a possible bid for the Ford assets.
Ratan Tata said the interest in Jaguar and Land Rover is driven by a desire to expand Tata Motors’ global reach and reduce its dependance on the Indian market, which currently accounts for more than 90 % of its sales.
“It is to give ourselves scale, to give ourselves global reach,” Tata said, but declined to comment further.
The Tata group, with interests ranging from automobiles to steel and software, has been aggressively seeking overseas acquisitions.
Earlier this year, Tata Steel Ltd won a $12 billion bid to buy UK-based Corus Steel, an acquisition that would make the Indian firm the world’s fifth largest steel maker.
Through acquisitions, Indian companies hope to penetrate new markets, acquire technologies and gain access to raw materials needed for industrialization back home.
In its bid for Jaguar and Land Rover, Tata would be pitted against two former Ford executives, who have reportedly tied up private equity firms to make separate bids for the same assets.
Sir Nick Scheele, who served as Ford’s president between 2001 and 2005, has reportedly joined the New York-based Ripplewood Holdings to bid for the luxury brands.
The other bid has reportedly come from Jacques Nasser, who was Ford’s chief executive from 1999 to 2001 and has tied up with One Equity Partners LLC.
In the interview, Tata also reiterated the small car that Tata Motors is developing would be launched in the first half of the fiscal year to March 2009, and that it would be priced at Rs1,00,000($2,400).
“We are working towards the price... We don’t want to comment on whether it is the ex-factory or on-road price,” he said. “It will meet all safety, emission and crash testing standards,” he added.