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Ford to sell off Mazda share UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' today.  Mazda's chief executive said his company's partnership with Ford remains unchanged amid speculation the U.S. automaker plans to further reduce its stake, and ruled out tie-ups with other companies.

The comments Wednesday from Mazda Motor Corp. President and Chief Executive Takashi Yamanouchi come after Japanese media reports that Ford, which has an 11 percent stake in Mazda, may reduce its stake to raise cash for investments in booming emerging markets.

Yamanouchi said Mazda and Ford share basic parts for autos called platforms, and also have joint production plants in Asia and other regions.

"There is no change to our strategic relations," he told reporters at a Tokyo hall. "We are always talking together about creating a win-win situation."

Ford became Mazda's biggest shareholder in 1979 when it was near collapse. Ford raised its stake to 33.4 percent in 1996, but reduced that to 13 percent in 2008. That has since declined to about 11 percent because Mazda issued shares.

Yamanouchi also denied Mazda was thinking about tie-ups with other automakers.

Speculation has been rife that Mazda — a relatively small player in the intensely competitive industry, producing 1.2 million vehicles a year — may need to tie up with an automaker other than Ford to compete globally.

Over the weekend, the Nikkei business daily reported that Ford was considering reducing its stake to about 3 percent. Detroit News

10/18/10 Reports that Ford Motor Co. plans to sell off nearly all of its remaining shares in its longtime Japanese partner Mazda Motor Corp. come as little surprise.

Ford's eventual pullout was more a question of when, than if.

But the bigger question is what it means for Mazda, a tiny player on the international scene. Its overseas factories in the United States, Thailand and China, in fact, are operated in conjunction with Ford. And pundits say it simply lacks the size -- and money -- to successfully go it alone.

More reports began emerging Monday from Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. in Tokyo. The Japanese financial giant will become Mazda's largest shareholder, the bank's chairman said, according to Bloomberg News.

For the record, neither Ford nor Mazda has denied the weekend report by Japan's Nikkei newspaper. Both danced around that by calling it “speculation.” AutoWeek

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