Ford is not in discussions with any car company, or any company, concerning selling Volvo Car Corporation, a spokesman insisted on Monday.
London-based corporate affairs spokesman John Gardiner was responding to weekend newspaper reports that Ford was putting the Volvo unit up for sale.
The Sunday Times, citing unnamed sources, also in London, said the decision to sell Volvo, which is part of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, was made in the past two weeks, but that the timing of the sale had yet to be decided.
The New York Times website, also on Sunday, said Ford would consider offers for Volvo following a board meeting last week. The newspaper cited unnamed people with knowledge of the situation.
Gardiner noted that the weekend reports, which said that Ford could expect around $8bn from a Volvo sale, and cited industry observers as saying that its struggling parent company could use the cash flow boost, largely repeated previously-reported facts and speculation.
He said that something like any decision to sell Volvo would be a “material disclosure” and, as such, would, by law, have to have been reported to regulatory bodies such as the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).
Gardiner described the newspaper reports as “a little bit surprising” and reiterated comments he has made previously to just-auto: Ford is assessing a number of strategic options for its future which may or may not include the sales of assets such as Volvo.
On Sunday, Ford spokesman Tom Hoyt initially told the Associated Press that the company wasn’t commenting on speculation about Volvo’s future but later the same day issued a denial that the automaker was in talks to sell the unit.
“To my knowledge, we are not in negotiations with anyone about the future of Volvo,” Hoyt told the news agency.
The Sunday Times said it had been thought that Ford might hang on to Volvo because it was profitable, but it was now believed that Ford was ready to receive offers.
Industry observers have, however, been quoted saying that Volvo would be difficult to disentangle from other Ford units due to cross-sharing of platforms and engines – AP noted a Volvo platform underpins the 2008 North America market Ford Taurus, for example.
There have been suggestions that some sort of post-sale cooperation deal would need to be agreed and that this would be easier for another automaker to achieve than a private equity buyer.
Asked at last month’s Automotive News Congress about the unit’s future, Volvo Car Corporation CEO and President Frederick Arp went for a stock response. “I am focussed, along with my colleagues, on developing and going forward with a very strong brand that is performing well,” he told just-auto.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Express said that it believed Ford was willing to accept less than GBP1bn for Jaguar and Land Rover combined.
An unnamed source told the paper: “Ford never wanted GBP3bn for the businesses as has been reported.
“The most accurate valuation for the brands we have seen was the $1.3-1.5bn [by Merrill Lynch]. But this under-estimated Land Rover’s profits.”
At the same Automotive News event last month, UBS Investment Bank’s Max Warburton said no industry buyers were interested in the assets of Jaguar and Land Rover but there were perhaps 2-3 private equity firms who could be interested.
But Volvo would be considered a prize asset and an industry buyer was a possibility, he added.