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Union backs Tata bid for Jaguar

Mumbai, Nov. 22: Tata Motors seems to have moved ahead in the race for Jaguar and Land Rover with the union of the two British car makers backing its bid over that of Mahindra & Mahindra and One Equity Partners.

“We’ve been impressed by both Tata Motors and Mahindra. But, we believe the workers’ interest will be best served by Tata Motors. We’ve conveyed our opinion to Ford,” said Dave Osborne, national officer of Unite, the union which represents the 16000-odd workers of the two British marques that are owned by Ford Motor. He was speaking to The Telegraph from London. The UK’s largest trade union opted for the Tatas because of their “established presence in the auto manufacturing sector”.

Osborne said Tata Motors was a bigger company than the Mahindras. “In addition to that, they already have a presence in the UK and from the reports that we have heard, they are good employers.”

The Tatas have assured Unite that they would maintain the separate identities of Jaguar and Land Rover and not shift the engineering and design centres of the companies outside the UK.

They have also said that they would not retrench anybody. “The current Jaguar and Land Rover business plan doesn’t call for any retrenchment before 2012 and Tata Motors has committed to honour the business plan,” said Osborne.

Tata Steel’s takeover of Corus last year seems to have made an impression in the UK, and Osborne said Unite was familiar with the Corus deal.

“Of course, we’ve watched that deal unfold. We have spoken to our colleagues in Corus and they’ve told us that they are comfortable having Tatas as their owners.”

However, the union’s recommendation is not binding on the bidding process. While Tata Motors may have the edge, the Mahindras and One Equity Partners are still in the race.

“Of course, it’s up to the company to determine the bidder. We’ve only given our opinion, which the company had sought from us,” Osborne said.

Mahindra and Mahindra refused to comment on the development.

Ford acquired Jaguar in 1989 for $2.5 billion and Land Rover in 2000 for $2.75 billion, but the companies had been reporting losses for the past several years.

According to independent valuations, the brands will collectively fetch around $1.5 billion. Ford has said that it wanted to conclude the deal by January 2008. The three shortlisted bidders met union officials on Tuesday and made presentations on their bids.

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