updated 11/18/2008 9:00:23 AM ET 2008-11-18T14:00:23

Ford Motor Co. is slashing its stake in Japan's Mazda Motor Corp. by nearly two-thirds, joining other struggling U.S. automakers in selling prized assets to stay afloat.

Ford, which owns 33.4 percent of Mazda, will sell about a 20 percent stake, the companies said in a separate statements.

The sale would net Ford some 52 billion yen ($540 million) based on the closing price of Mazda's shares Tuesday. The shares rose 6.4 percent to 184 yen amid media reports of a coming sale.

Hit by a slump in the U.S., Ford is burning through its reserves and, along with General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, is seeking a $25 billion government lifeline to weather the deepening economic crisis.

General Motors said Monday it would sell its remaining 3.02 percent stake in Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp. for 22.37 billion yen ($230 million).

Ford racked up a loss of $8.7 billion in the second quarter, its worst ever result, and has used up $11 billion of its cash stockpile in the past year.

Over the last decade, Ford helped engineer a turnaround at once-struggling Mazda, sending executives and sharing technology and auto parts to cut costs.

Hiroshima-based Mazda, which makes the RX-8 sports car and Miata roadster, said the two companies will continue their strategic relationship.

The Japanese automaker said it would purchase the shares sold by Ford along with "several of its strategic business partners."

Mazda will buy up to 6.87 percent of its own shares for up to 17.9 billion yen ($185.3 million) through an off-hours trading system on Wednesday morning.

The company was mum on buyers of the rest of the shares being sold, but media reports mentioned Japanese companies including regional Hiroshima Bank, trading houses Sumitomo Corp. and Itochu Corp., insurance firms including Tokio Marine Holdings Inc. as well as auto parts maker Denso Corp., as purchasers.

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