LONDON, Sep 24 Four firms remain in the race to buy Ford's F.N European luxury br

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LONDON, Sep 24 (Reuters) Four firms remain in the race to buy Ford's European luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover after India's Mahindra&Mahindra and vulture fund Cerberus pulled out, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

One Equity Partners, Ripplewood, Tata Motors and TPG [TPG.UL] have yet to complete the due diligence, the people added.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally said in July that an eventual sale of Jaguar and Landrover was probable, but one of the people said at least one potential bidder is seeking a bigger commitment from Ford to a sale before they undertake extensive due diligence.

They said Ford was trying to avoid tying itself to a sale in case the current funding problems undermine the brands' value.

Cerberus pulled out of the process after deciding it has enough on its plate digesting the acquisition of U.S. automaker Chrysler earlier this year and does not want further exposure to the sector in the short term, the people added.

Ford and Texas Pacific declined to comment, Cerberus could not be reached.

Ford has been exploring the possible sale of the brands since June as it continues the strategic review of its global operations that saw it sell Aston Martin in March.

Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy at the time had valued the two brands at as much as $1.5 billion combined.

REUTERS SR HT2055

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