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Ford Motor Co., currently the top shareholder of Mazda Motor Corp., will sell about 70 percent of its shareholdings in the automaker on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Friday, but the two carmakers are expected to maintain their strategic alliance, Mazda said Thursday.

Ford will lower its stake in Mazda to 3.53 percent from 11.06 percent in terms of voting rights, becoming the fourth-largest shareholder in the Hiroshima-based automaker.

Ford will sell the 7.53 percent stake to Mazda’s business partners, Mazda said, quoting the U.S. carmaker’s notification.

Mazda did not disclose which partners will purchase the stake from Ford.

“We have agreed with Ford that we will continue our strategic partnership, which has been cultivated for more than 30 years,” said Mazda President Takashi Yamanouchi at a news conference.

“We would like to cooperate in the fields in which the two can gain benefits, such as key joint ventures and exchanges of technology information,” Yamanouchi said, noting the company has no plan to tie up with any carmaker other than Ford.

Sources said Thursday that trading houses Sumitomo Corp. and Itochu Corp. have each decided to buy a stake of a little more than 1 percent in Mazda from Ford.

Kajima Corp. and Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd. are also making final arrangements to each purchase around 0.5 percent of the Mazda shares, the sources said.

With the moves, a total of about 10 companies, including Mazda’s main bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., are arranging to buy shares from Ford.

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking, which holds a 2.9 percent stake in Mazda, plans to increase its holdings by around 1 percent and is expected to replace Ford as Mazda’s largest stockholder.

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