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CHENNAI: Foreign automakers have indicated an interest to the government of India's Tamil Nadu state in acquiring Ford Motor Co's plant there, the state industries minister said on Thursday, after inconclusive talks with the Tata Group.

Ford India said in September it would wind down operations at a factory in Western Gujarat state by end-2021 and vehicle and engine manufacturing at the Tamil Nadu plant by 2022, as it did not see a path to profitability in the country.

"Early stage talks are going on," Thangam Thennarasu, industries minister of Tamil Nadu told Reuters, adding that he could not give details of which firms were interested.

"It is eventually up to Ford as it will be a commercial arrangement. We are merely facilitating talks between the companies," he said.

Tata Motors to invest $2bn in EVs after fundraise from TPG

Thennarasu said the Tata Group had also shown an interest in buying the Ford plant, having met the state's chief minister and visited the plant for a preliminary study but the state government had yet to hear from them about any deal.

"It is now up to them to make an official announcement," Thennarasu told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.

Ford, asked about which firms might be interested in buying the Tamil Nadu plant, told Reuters in a statement: "We continue to explore possible alternatives for our manufacturing facilities but have nothing further to share."

Tamil Nadu, a state of more than 70 million people and one of the country's most industrialised, is sometimes called the "Detroit of Asia". It is home to factories of companies including BMW, Daimler, Hyundai, Nissan and Renault.

Thennarasu said the state has been receiving interest from electric vehicle manufacturers and battery makers. Ride-sharing company Ola, which has started an electric scooter manufacturing facility in the state, has expressed plans to expand, he said.

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