Ford wants speedy sale of luxury European brands
Ford Motor Co. is seeking buyers for its Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover
brands in Europe as the money-losing automaker tries to focus on North
America, two people familiar with the strategy said.
Ford, which lost $12.6 billion last year, has hired Goldman Sachs Group
Inc. and Morgan Stanley to arrange the sale, one of the persons said.
The plan is known internally as "Project Swift," a reference to the
speed at which Ford wants to make a sale, said the people, who didn't
want to be identified because the talks are confidential.
Selling the brands would end a 20-year initiative to expand sales of
luxury autos by acquiring European companies. Since 1998, before
Dearborn-based Ford bought Land Rover and Volvo, the company's own
Lincoln unit has plunged from No. 1 in U.S. luxury sales to seventh.
"This company desperately needs focus in terms of preserving its capital
and concentrating its management resources," said John Casesa, managing
partner of Casesa Strategic Advisors LLC in New York. "It currently has
too many mouths to feed."
The automaker's North American automotive operations were the primary
source of last year's record loss. The unit has been hurt by declining
sales of pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles, Ford's main source of
Among the European luxury brands, Volvo has been profitable and Land
Rover turned profitable under Ford. Jaguar has had unspecified losses.
The brands make up Premier Automotive Group, whose losses widened to
$2.32 billion last year. The figure includes costs considered one-time
expenses, such as job cuts.
Spokesman John Gardiner said Ford would neither confirm nor deny
speculation about a sale.
Ford, the world's third-largest automaker, hinted that the brands might
be sold when it announced in August that it planned to find a buyer for
U.K.-based Aston Martin. Since then, executives have said Ford continues
to evaluate its assets and has no current plans to sell any of the other