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Mazda to remove Ford as top shareholder

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Mazda Motor Corp said it would announce on Thursday a prospective change in its main shareholder, in a move that would likely see Ford Motor Co. losing its status as the Japanese carmaker’s top shareholder for the first time since 1979.

The news has been widely expected after media reports flagged the move. Sources told Reuters last month that the U.S. automaker would sell most of its remaining 11 percent stake in Mazda and that trading house Sumitomo Corp. and other Japanese business partners of Mazda were in talks to buy the shares.

Chief Executive Takashi Yamanouchi will hold a news conference at 6 p.m. in Tokyo after an announcement at 0800 GMT, Mazda said.

Japanese media reported a day earlier that trading house Itochu Corp, general contractor Kajima Corp, shipping firm Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and Sumitomo Metal Industries were among the nearly 10 firms that would buy Mazda shares from Ford.

Mazda and Ford have both repeatedly said their partnership, rooted in close operational ties including jointly owned factories, would remain strong despite any change in their equity relationship.

Speculation has been rife that Ford was looking to reduce its Mazda stake to gain more flexibility in its Chinese operations.

Mazda’s main lender, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, which already holds a 2.9 percent stake, is also likely to buy more shares, making it the carmaker’s top shareholder.

Ford took a 25 percent stake in a debt-ridden Mazda in 1979, lifting that to a controlling 33.4 percent in 1996. In late 2008, it reduced its interest to 13 percent as it sought to raise cash.

That stake fell to 11 percent when Mazda issued new shares last year.
Source: Reuters

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