The deal to transfer ownership of Jaguar Land Rover to Indian company Tata Motors will be signed on March 26, industry insiders have indicated.
There had been speculation that an announcement would be made sometime next week but the matter has now been deferred until after Easter. Sources confirmed today that all negotiations connected with the protracted deal, estimated at around £1 billion, had finally been concluded.
One industry watcher said: "It’s a very complex document, running into hundreds of pages."
It is thought that the formal announcement will be made at a press conference in London, although full details could be delayed until the second quarter.
The expert said: "It’s all done and dusted. It’s great news for the Midlands. It’s a total agreement taking in all the unions and staff.
"Jaguar Land Rover is in safe hands."
It is believed that Tata has guaranteed the Jaguar Land Rover investment plan for the next five years – an assurance that confirms the continued production of the famous marques in the UK.
Details regarding supply contracts and engine provision remain secret for the time being.
Unions had been urging Ford to agree to continue supplying engines for the vehicles, a move that would guarantee the jobs of thousands of workers in the components industry.
While some of the Ford engines are manufactured in Germany, the bulk are supplied from the company’s plants in Bridgend in South Wales and Dagenham.
It is believed that continuing arrangements have been agreed.
Claims were made on Thursday that Tata was seeking price guarantees from Ford for the engines in an attempt to keep costs as low as possible.
Tata has been looking to conclude a funding package needed to finance its takeover.
The Indian company is thought to have approached a network of banks around the globe with a view to raising £1.5 billion, enough to finance the initial deal and provide basic working capital.
Tata has promised to respect the heritage of both brands and agreed to continuity of management. To this end, it is believed Jaguar Land Rover chief executive Geoff Polites will retain his position after the deal goes through.
Sources close to the deal said: "There has been a lot of speculation over when the deal might be concluded but March 26 would correspond with the Ford timetable of securing the deal by the end of the first quarter."
News came on the day that new figures showed both brands had struggled for European sales in February.
The latest car registration figures from European car association ACEA showed Jaguar sales down 25.6 per cent in February compared with the same month last year, while Land Rover showed a decline for the second month in succession, off more than 12 per cent.
Jaguar sold 1,035 cars in the Western European region compared with 1,392 last year. Despite the poor performance the decline was less marked than last month when the figures showed a 37.9 per cent drop.
Land Rover sold 4,081 models last month, compared with 4,644 in February 2007.
In the UK as a whole, sales were down 5.4 per cent compared with the same month last year, at 69,610 versus 73,586.
However, there was brighter news for the UK industry from BMW where the Mini showed its continued popularity with sales up more than 50 per cent compared with last year.
The Oxford-manufactured car had sales of 9,924 last month versus 6,606 in February 2007.
Across Western Europe as a whole, sales were up 7.7 per cent.