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Ford Working with Advisers On Jaguar, Land Rover

Ford Motor said on Tuesday it was working with financial advisers on the best options for its European luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover.

"We are working with financial advisers to determine the best future for Jaguar and Land Rover," said John Gardiner, a spokesman for Ford's luxury brands. He declined to name the advisers.

Sources familiar with the matter said on Monday that Ford had hired investment banks -- including Goldman Sachs , HSBC Holding Plc and Morgan Stanley -- that are helping the automaker explore the sale of the two brands.

Gardiner said Ford's review of its global operations was ongoing and the company was looking at all options.

He declined to give a timeline for any decision.

Ford has faced scrutiny over how it will raise and maintain its cash position as it restructures its money-losing North American operations. It could get a cash-infusion from the sale of the two nameplates.

Analysts have said that Ford was still burning cash and contract talks with the United Auto Workers union were looming, which strengthens the case for asset sales.

The profitability of Ford's luxury brands, dubbed the Premier Automotive Group, has been volatile.

Land Rover expects to be profitable this year. But analysts have said the company could better spend its money elsewhere if it sells the loss-making Jaguar unit.

Jaguar, known for its leaping cat hood ornament, remains the biggest drag on the results of Ford's luxury division.

Ford could raise between $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion through a combined sale of Jaguar and Land Rover, Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy said.

The automaker, which is on track to lose its No. 2 spot in the U.S. market to fast-growing rival Toyota Motor, sold Aston Martin in March for $925 million but last month denied that it was in talks to sell Volvo.

Ford is in the midst of a sweeping restructuring in North America. It lost $12.6 billion last year and another $282 million during the first quarter with further losses forecast this year.

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

Separately, Ford said it had reached a preliminary deal to sell its auto lights business and an accompanying plant in Sandusky, Ohio, to privately-held Meridian Automotive Systems. Terms were not disclosed.

The deal is contingent on reaching a contract with the United Auto Workers that would reduce operating costs at the plant, Ford said.

The plant was one of nearly two dozen plants it took back from former subsidiary Visteon, as part of a 2005 restructuring of the auto parts maker.

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