Ford, Mazda Say Capital Tie-Up Unchanged After Share Sale Report

Ford Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. said there has been no change in their capital relationship after the Nikkei newspaper reported the U.S. automaker plans to cut its Mazda holding to less than 3 percent.

Ford reached a tentative agreement to sell Mazda shares to Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., Sumitomo Corp. and suppliers of the Japanese automaker, the Nikkei said today, without citing anyone. Ford plans to reduce its Mazda stake to 3 percent or less from its current level of 11 percent, Nikkei said.

“Ford’s ownership stake in Mazda remains unchanged,” Mark Truby, a Ford spokesman, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “Ford continues to have a close strategic relationship with Mazda, and we cooperate in areas of mutual benefit. We have no further comment on the speculation.”

Ford owns more than 195 million Mazda shares, valued at about $512 million, based on the closing price in Tokyo yesterday. The report about a change in the capital relationship between the two automakers is speculation, Mazda said a in faxed statement today. The agreement between the companies to continue a strategic partnership is unchanged, the statement said.

Were the bank to purchase the stake, it would become the automaker’s largest shareholder, the Nikkei said in separate report. Ford cut its stake in Mazda from 33 percent in November 2008 as it raised cash to avoid bankruptcy.

End Development

The second-largest U.S. automaker has signaled it intended to end developing cars and trucks jointly with Mazda. Ford’s new Fiesta small car is based on the mechanical foundation of the Mazda2 subcompact. Ford’s Fusion family sedan is based on the Mazda6 platform and its new Ranger pickup truck is built alongside its mechanical twin, the Mazda BT-50, at a factory in Thailand the automakers jointly own.

“For a lot of designing and engineering, we’re going to be focused on Ford,” Mark Fields, Ford’s president for the Americas and former Mazda chief executive, said last December. “Our efforts will be focused on the Ford system, as opposed to relying on others such as Mazda.”

Since arriving from Boeing Co. in 2006, Ford Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally has revived the automaker by focusing on the namesake brand and selling off Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin. The Dearborn, Michigan-based carmaker earned $4.7 billion in the year’s first six months, its largest first-half profit since 1998.

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