UPDATE 2-UK's JCB says interested in buying Jaguar


(Updates with JCB statement)

By Michael Smith

LONDON, Aug 24 (Reuters) - British construction machinery group JCB said on Thursday it was interested in buying loss-making carmaker Jaguar from U.S. owner Ford Motor Co .

"I have expressed an interest in the purchase of Jaguar because I believe it is a very strong brand with great potential which at this moment I believe is not being realised," JCB Chairman Anthony Bamford said in a statement.

The Financial Times newspaper reported Bamford would only want to buy Jaguar if Ford was prepared to split the loss-making carmaker from Land Rover.

Ford's Premier Automotive Group (PAG) declined to comment.

Ford bought Jaguar in 1989 for 1.6 billion pounds ($3.03 billion) but has struggled to make money with the brand, part of PAG. PAG also includes Volvo, Land Rover and Aston Martin.

Bamford, who was quoted in the newspaper as saying Jaguar would need downsizing if he bought it, said in the statement he would not comment further.

Analysts and bankers have pointed to wealthy Russian businessman Nikolai Smolensky, who bought British sports car company TVR in 2004, as a possible buyer for Jaguar.

Private equity buyers and mass carmakers eager to move upmarket in search of higher margins could also emerge as buyers, they have said.

Ford said on Aug. 2 it expects PAG will be unprofitable in 2006, based on recent sales trends.

Ford said in December last year it had injected another 1.2 billion pounds into Jaguar to cover heavy losses and investment writedowns, the second recapitalisation in two years.

Ford in 2004 cut 1,150 Jaguar jobs in England, scaled back production at the Browns Lane plant in Coventry and shifted output to another factory near Birmingham.

On Wednesday, JCB's Dieselmax beat its own land speed record for diesel-powered cars, reaching 350.092 miles per hour a day after breaking a three-decade-old record. (Additional reporting by Dan Lalor in London and Michael Shields in Frankfurt)



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