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Ford says PAG, European unit to make money in '07

From Reuters| March 07,2007

Ford Motor Co.'s European division and its luxury unit Premier Automotive Group are expected to be profitable in 2007, said Lewis Booth, executive vice president of Ford and head of its European operations.

Booth today also told analysts in a presentation broadcast over the Internet that the company is continuing with the process of selling its Aston Martin luxury performance car brand and the process has not concluded yet.

Booth said he expects the sale to be finalized this year.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier that Ford could announce the sale of its Aston Martin luxury performance cars unit for more than $865 million as early as this week.

Formula One team Prodrive, working with Egypt's Naeem investment bank, is the front runner to buy the business although other bidders such as U.K. buyout firm Doughty Hanson are still in the process should talks fall through, the source said.

Doughty Hanson and Syrian-born property tycoon Simon Halabi also submitted second-round offers for Aston Martin in an auction being run by investment bank UBS AG, sources familiar with the matter said last month.

Ford said last year it would sell all or part of Aston Martin to raise funds for other businesses.

Booth, speaking at the Merrill Lynch Global Automotive Conference in Geneva today, said Ford's Jaguar unit is not currently for sale.

"If that changes, we'll tell you when we're ready," he added.

Ford has been losing money on Jaguar for a number of years and analysts have said the company would be able to better use its capital if it sells Jaguar.

Ford also is in the midst of a sweeping restructuring in North America. It lost $12.7 billion last year with further losses forecast.

By Ford's own estimate, its North American unit will lose money until 2009 and run through $17 billion cash in the next three years.

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