A deal to sell a Ford gearbox plant in France is inching forward and may be concluded next month.

French economy minister Bruno Le Maire told Reuters talks with Belgian transmissions supplier Punch Powerglide over the purchase of the Blanquefort gearbox plant in southwestern France should be concluded in October.

In June, the automaker had said it would close the plant if no buyer could be found for the site, which employs 900 workers.

Bordeaux's Metropolis Council said at the time it deplored "with the greatest force" Ford Aquitaine Industries' (FAI) decision to put its automatic transmission plant up for sale threatening hundreds of jobs should no buyer be found.

Labour bodies, regional councils and the French government united in condemning Ford's move, with unions in particular expressing fears the workforce, with an average of 51, would struggle to find future employment should the site close.

Ford established a task force liaising with an external company specialised in finding new business owners, to identify potential buyers.

FAI had presented a social plan which included redeployment and early retirement programmes, together with measures to help staff relocate with new employers should no new owner be found and closure followed.

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