Takeover rumours denied by Ford


Ford Motor, the US carmaker at the centre of speculation about a new wave of takeovers and alliances in the automotive industry, yesterday denied reports it was about to buy BMW and Honda.

Mr Jac Nasser, Ford chief executive, said in an interview the company was always on the look-out for suitable opportunities. But the latest reports "came as a surprise to us. I guess we should be flattered, really".

Mr Nasser, who has largely steered Ford's revival in recent years, said. "We see anything of an acquisition nature as an opportunity rather than a necessity." Any deal "would have to be an absolute opportunity for us". His remarks followed a day in which investors piled into the market after a news agency report about the supposed BMW and Honda deals. The German and Japanese groups joined Ford in firmly rejecting the speculation.

Mr Nasser confirmed that Ford had been in talks with Volvo, the Swedish group, but denied that the discussions had involved a fullscale merger. "We talk to them about all sorts of things - we'd like them to buy more parts from us - just as we talk to other car companies."

In Frankfurt, BMW shares shot up 11.5 per cent to a four-month high in early trading on speculation it might be a takeover target for Ford. But after a denial from the Munich-based group, the shares settled #8.50 higher at #699.

On the Milan stock exchange Fiat shares, which were briefly suspended, rose 6.22 per cent to #3.346 on rumours it was in merger talks with Volvo, while the Swedish carmaker's shares rose SKr12.50 to SKr212. Fiat declined to comment yesterday on the latest wave of merger rumours.

It is understood Volvo has also been in talks with Fiat and Volkswagen about possible co-operation in manufacturing and component sharing.

Unlike BMW, Volvo has declined to deny reports that it would consider a partnership.

Mr Nasser said Ford had featured in the latest round of speculation because of its high profitability, its well-publicised desire to grow and its multi-brand, multi-cultural structure, which showed it was capable of expanding.