The chairman of Tata Motors was staying relaxed yesterday on the prospects of his company taking over Jaguar and Land Rover.

But he is clearly confident that Tata is up to the task of making the two iconic brands prosper.

Privately, the deal is already thought to be done and the only questions remaining centre around how much of a stake current owner Ford may want to retain when it hands over the two brands in what is thought to be a £1 billion-plus disposal.

The deal is expected to be clinched by the end of March at the latest. But for Ratan Tata that was all for another occasion.

At the show, he was instead basking in the glow of a successful day having seen his company launch its remarkable new People's Car, the Nano.

The vehicle is set to change the face of motoring in India and will be on sale later this year at just £1,250, bringing four-wheel safety and comfort to millions of people who have never experienced it before.

At a press conference to mark the launch of the Nano, the Tata boss was asked on several occasions just what his plans were for Jaguar and Land Rover.

However, on each occasion he politely declined to answer saying that the conference was not the right forum to be discussing such matters.

This was in part not to deflect attention away from the Nano, which in Indian eyes is far more important than events unfolding in the West Midlands.

Only once did Mr Tata come close to losing his cool when pressed by a reporter who asked: "Can you tell us what your plans for Jaguar and Land Rover are?"

He replied bluntly, "No", and moved on to the next question.

There have been just a few scant comments on his thinking. One report had him somewhat cryptically dismissing concerns that the lower-end car-maker would add little value to the luxury marques, making a virtue of there being no overlap.

He stated: "A lot of people have been making an issue of whether a car manufacturer that's in the low end can also integrate with an upper end luxury car enterprise.  That assumes one is going to integrate the enterprise.

"I would say that a company like ours would probably be the company that would have less conflict with these products than Ford may have had, whether it be in areas of overlap or conflict."

Mr Tata pointed out that many large multinationals owned brands across the demographic spec-trum and managed them separately as part of a wide-ranging portfolio.

But what of Mr Tata's own future?

He was asked by one reporter whether the launch of the Nano would herald his retirement from the company. His reply was very interesting.

He said: "I think everyone has a desire to step aside at some stage and experience all the things that you have never been able to before.

"However, I have a responsibility to the group and there are certain obligations that I have to fulfil."

How far Jaguar and Land Rover represent unfinished business remains to be seen but the overseeing of the transition of the luxury marques into Indian ownership would be some legacy for his successor.

Time will tell.

Sources close to the company believe an announcement on the deal could come next month, in time for Tata to grab the limelight at the Geneva Motor Show at the beginning of March, where it intends exhibiting the Nano to European audiences. One of Tata's rivals in the quest for the two companies is Mahindra and Mahindra.

The company is also exhibiting at Auto Expo 08 but no one there was willing to comment on the situation.

The one private equity bid has come from the JP Morgan-backed company One Equity Partners which counts ex-Ford chief Jac Nassar amongst its heavy hitters.

It is thought that the current credit squeeze makes the private equity bid an outsider, although with its Ford pedigree it could still make a play.

It would likely float the companies in around five years time or look to sell the businesses on for a big profit.

Unions fear such a move would mean substantial job losses as the private equity company looks to make the two businesses more appealing to buyers by paring down costs.

Union chiefs already favour the acquisition by Tata as this would provide the investment needed to source new product and secure manufacturing jobs in the region.

They have looked to the example of Corus, formerly British Steel, which was acquired by Tata last year for more than £6 billion.

The employees at Corus are happy with the arms-length approach to management, something which could underpin the future of both Land Rover and Jaguar should the acquisition go ahead as expected. 

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